The Prince George Spruce Kings were up against the 2014 RBC Royal Bank Cup host team on Friday night in the Coliseum and came away with a 3-0 shutout win over the Vernon Vipers. After remaining a scoreless affair through forty minutes, the Spruce Kings found the back of the net three times in the third with Mitch Eden and Jeremiah Luedtke getting their firsts of the season and Christian Weidauer his third.
The Spruce Kings seemed to be carrying the play in the first period and jumped out to a 9-2 shot lead in the opening twenty minutes. The best chance came midway through the period when Mitch Eden walked in and fired a hard shot that got past the Vipers netminder but rang off the goal post.
Although there were chances in the first and a few in the early goings of the second period, the game lacked intensity and emotion as the teams went through their paces looking to find the opening to the net. Things turned quickly three minutes into the middle frame when rookie forward, Riley Hawes dropped the gloves with the four year vet and twenty year old Brendan Persley of the Vernon Vipers. Both got a few punches with no real winner in the battle.
The fight seemed to spark the Spruce Kings bench who picked up the pace and started creating even more chances as they went back to the style of play that has proven to be successful for them. The increased intensity also led to a blow to the head penalty and 10 minute misconduct for Mark Hamilton. Unfortunately for Prince George, their powerplay would come up empty on this night despite having five chances including a five minute major later in the game.
The Spruce Kings have found success in tight quarters around the net in almost all of their wins so far this season. In a second period goal mouth scramble, the puck crossed the goal line starting a goal celebration for Prince George that was called off after it was ruled that the puck crossed the line after the net came off its moorings. The Spruce Kings would not be deterred and kept up the pressure getting another 11 shots in the second while Alex Murray made 9 at the other end of the ice.
In the third period the Spruce Kings would get a beautiful goal from Mitch Eden who found himself in the slot just off to the left hand side. As the puck made its way to Eden, he took an off balance shot at the net firing it back across the seam to the far side top corner above the glove of Danny Todosychuk. The goal was a welcome relief for the defenceman who came into the game with five assists and no goals.
In another play that didn't look like it could have been drawn up the way it played out, Christian Weidauer was able to pick up the puck in almost the same spot as Braiden Epp was being checked coming through the faceoff circle. Weidauer stepped into his shot and blew the puck past a surprised Todosychuk who was being screened on the play by his own guy.
Two plays later the puck found its way to the back of the net a third time for Prince George when Jeremiah Luedtke found a puck that squirted loose for him as he waited for the play to develop at the bottom of the faceoff circle. The line of Luedtke, Chad Staley and Justin Rai had looked dangerous all night, but was still struggling to find its chemistry that it had last season.
Things would turn ugly after the 3-0 goal, with Jake LeBrun trying to shake a back check that went from behind the net to the side boards, Mark Hamilton would through a heavy cross check on LeBrun that send him hard into the boards. After a few seconds LeBrun was able to come out from underneath the crowd and get shakily to his feet before being helped off the ice by Mitch Eden. LeBrun left the ice with blood showing on his forehead and cheek, the 19 year old did not return to the game and was taken to the hospital for observation.
The Vernon Vipers tried to rally to erase the goose egg on their side of the scoreboard, but the strong play of Alex Murray on this night was no match for the potent Vipers squad. Murray turned aside all 20 shots he faced on this night to post his first BCHL shutout including a couple of toe stops and one on a clear cut breakaway. Murray picked up the game's first star honours while Christian Weidauer got the nod for second and Cole Todd rounded out the Spruce Kings sweep of the top three players on the night.
The Spruce Kings won't have long to enjoy their fourth consecutive win as the Victoria Grizzlies make their way to the Castle after dropping a 4-3 back and forth game to the Merritt Centennials on Friday night. The Spruce Kings may have to look at bringing in an AP with Brent Lashuk listed as day-to-day and Lebrun not expected to be in the lineup on Saturday night. That's two thirds of what is considered to be the Spruce Kings top line out, leaving Bryant Christian to shoulder a heavier work load.