Coming off a heart breaking loss to the Penticton Vees, the Spruce Kings will look to end their three game Interior Division road trip on a positive with a win against the West Kelowna Warriors. The game last night had lots of positives with a few cross bars and goal posts getting in the way of the Prince George players that have been struggling to find some much needed goals.
It's easy to point to the obvious and recognize that the current woes coincide with the absence of Brent Lashuk and Jake LeBrun, but this is a team game and the players know that they are the ones that have to fill the vacancies up front. Earlier today the players met for a players only meeting looking to ignite the fire within for the game tonight.
The West Kelowna Warriors are out of the gates with a 9-2-0-1 record giving them sole possession of top spot in the BCHL; one point ahead of the Powell River Kings, two ahead of the Langley Rivermen and three on the Penticton Vees. The Warriors, like the team the Spruce Kings held to just two goals last night, have the ability to score goals and have outscored their opponents 47-33. In their last ten outings, the Warriors have 9 wins and one overtime loss.
The team is perfect in their own rink having won the four games they have played in Royal LePage Place so far. It should be noted that the Warriors have a home record of 4-1 where the one loss was at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack. Their last three home ice wins have all been by a margin of two goals including last night's 3-1 victory over the Merritt Centennials.
Under the guidance of head coach, Dave Dupas, the Prince George Spruce Kings have shown an ability to play up and sometimes above their opponents. The team will have to that tonight if they want to come home with something from this road trip. As mentioned, it won't be easy with a total of four players expected to be out of the lineup.
Jake LeBrun and Brent Lashuk are the big scratches with both suffering from concussions. Lashuk is the closest to returning but is still considered to be day-to-day and not expected to dress tonight. LeBrun is still at least a week away from getting on the ice, but has been making significant strides in his recovery. Caleb Thompson was unable to travel with the team due to an illness and Mitch Barker missed last night after showing similar symptoms as Thompson; Barker is not expected to be in the lineup again tonight.
Interestingly enough, this becomes a deja vu thing all over again for the Spruce Kings. Last year on a similar road trip, Prince George limped into West Kelowna when a bug swept through the roster. As the bus was preparing for its departure to the rink, two players were unable to leave their rooms. To make things worse, as the team took to the ice for the pregame skate at least one more was shelved and in the first period two more players went down.
In that game some unlikely heroes stepped up and tallied some big goals. The game winning goal became the statement goal for Jeremiah Luedtke and Chad Staley as they announced their arrival to the British Columbia Hockey League. A year later, opposition coaches have the names of Luedtke, Staley and Justin Rai underlined on their white boards emphasizing the need for their team to pay extra attention to them.
Like last year, the Spruce Kings will have to find amongst themselves those players that want to emerge and state their presence in the BCHL.
Game time tonight is 7pm with the game being broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed from Fasthockey.com and an audio only free option from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Following the game, the team will return to Prince George for the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend and to prepare for three games again next weekend through the Mainland Division including a pair of stops in Surrey.