Saturday, November 2, 2013

Single Point in Double Overtime

Alex Murray (35) making one of his best saves of the night
while the teams were playing 3-on-3 in double overtime

Despite being down six players, the Prince George Spruce Kings found a way to get a single point in their game Saturday night against the Langley Rivermen. The Spruce Kings came up one play short of taking both points but had to head home with only the single point after a 3-2 double overtime loss. The point extended the Spruce Kings consecutive point streak to six games with four wins and two overtime decisions in that span.

The Spruce Kings went into the contest with a short bench as the injuries continue to mount up. Heading into the weekend, Bryant Christian was added to the long term injured list after suffering a facial injury that required Christian to return home for surgery. Jake LeBrun is still on the long term injury list, but is expected to start skating with the team next week and is expected to make a return to the game in mid-November. Mitch Barker was also unable to make the trip suffering from a lower body injury that shouldn't have an impact on his return for next weekend.

The only healthy scratch from this weekend is that of Jesse Jenks who is away at the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia playing for Team Canada West. In Friday night's game, both Justin Rai and Cole Todd were hit with high dangerous hits in two different plays that saw the same result - both forwards left for the dressing room and did not return. Both players have returned home and are expected to miss out on the three games next weekend.

On Thursday, the Prince George Spruce Kings completed a trade with the Vernon Vipers to add Mike Iovanna to their lineup. The team also called up a pair of affiliate players, Jackson Waniek a right handed forward and Tate Sproxton a goaltender. The two forward additions to the roster would both contribute on Saturday night with their first BCHL career goals in the second period to spot the Spruce Kings a 2-1 lead.

The game's first goal came in the first period of play on the Rivermen's fifth shot on goal. Off a faceoff in the Spruce Kings zone, the puck would make its way back to the left point, Chris Forney took the original shot that Skylar Pacheco was able to block. Alex Murray found himself out of position as the puck bounced off of his defenceman back to the left faceoff circle where Matt Ustaski was waiting to fire in his eight of the season.

Early in the second period, from almost the same spot on the ice, Mitch Eden would lob a shot in on net that Jackson Waniek was able to tip in past Steve Myland to tie the game at a goal apiece. The harmless looking shot became a shot of adrenaline for the Prince George bench who were looking for anything positive to build on. A few minutes later, the newest member of the Spruce Kings would shake off a 15 game drought with a hard working play. Mike Iovanna stripped the puck off the Langley forward just outside the Spruce Kings zone. Iovanna went in on an angle to the Rivermen net with a defenceman draped all over him. Iovanna faked with the forehand, pulled the puck to his backhand and lifted a shot past the blocker of Myland.

The Spruce Kings go-ahead goal forced Bobby Henderson, the Langley Rivermen's head coach and general manager, to call his team's timeout with just over five minutes played in the second period. The Spruce Kings would hold onto their slim one goal lead for the next twelve minutes but unfortunately for Prince George, a penalty would lead to the tying goal. With Mitch Eden in the box for tripping, the Rivermen worked the puck around the right side until they could sneak a back door pass through the seam for Ustaski to tap in his second of the night with less than two minutes remaining in the second period.

In the third period, both teams would trade chance for chance looking for the lead in regulation time that wouldn't come. In overtime the Langley Rivermen were credited with six shots on goal while the Spruce Kings were credited with only one. The best chance for Prince George came about a minute and half into the second overtime period when Sean Landrey jumped up on the rush, split a pair of defenders and went in hard on Myland. Landrey had his feet taken out from under him and fell heavily and awkwardly into the end boards.

The Rivermen headed up the other end of the ice on an odd-man rush with a chance to end it. Alex Murray stared down the Rivermen and came up with a highlight reel save. On the ensuing faceoff, the Rivermen found themselves in deep with two player wide on either side of the net. Kevin Kilistoff spotted James Robinson on the far side and fed the puck over for the one-timer. Murray dove over and was able to get a good piece of the puck, but it wasn't enough as it fluttered over the goaltender and fell into the back of the net.

The Rivermen ended up outshooting Prince George 35-20 but through it all the Spruce Kings remained just one shot away from winning it and that made for an entertaining game for all those that watched on. Following the game, the Spruce Kings returned home with only 18 players on the bus. The team will look at some options, hope for a player or two to return from the injured list and prepare for another big weekend road trip. Next weekend the Spruce Kings will complete their Interior Division road games with stops in Trail on Friday, Vernon on Saturday and Salmon Arm on Sunday afternoon.

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