Friday, November 1, 2013

Spruce Kings Find a Way to Win

Mitch Eden (27) celebrates his game winning goal
Photo courtesy Garrett James Photography

The Spruce Kings found a way to win and extend their current winning streak to four games after downing the Surrey Eagles 3-2 on Friday night. Jeremiah Luedtke (5), Chad Staley (8) and Mitch Eden (2) scoring for Prince George as the team led on shots and scoring chances but needed a break to put this one away.

Prince George found themselves down 1-0 after giving up a shorthanded goal while having pressure and controlling the play in the Surrey end. Off an offensive faceoff win, the puck came back to the d-man, got caught in skates and from there Nic Pierog poked it out to centre, got a step on his pursuers and was able to snap one past Alex Murray low to the glove side.

The Spruce Kings outshot the Eagles in the first period and had plenty of chances but couldn't find one to go behind Devon Fordyce. Knowing they only trailed by one and had the majority of the play leading 17-6 on the shot clock was all they were able to take to the dressing room.

Already missing three forwards (Bryant Christian, Jake LeBrun and Mitch Barker), the last thing the Spruce Kings need is to go down another forward. Two minutes into the second period, Colton Mackie tracked Justin Rai across the ice and when Rai was up against the boards with the puck in his feet, Mackie hit Rai with high hit that sent him to the ice in a heap. After a few tense moments, Rai was able to get up and get off the ice on his own power. Mackie was assessed a five minute major for charging and also given a game misconduct for the dangerous hit.

The Spruce Kings looked good early on in their third man advantage. On a nice play that saw Chad Staley pass the puck across the top of the zone to Skylar Pacheco who then set up Brent Lashuk in the high slot for the one-timer, it was Jeremiah Luedtke standing in the dirty area that tipped the blast past Fordyce to pull Prince George even tied 1-1. For Luedtke it was his fifth goal of the season and fourth in four games.

Prince George couldn't do much with the remaining time on the five minute major and ended up taking an even up penalty setting up a four-on-four situation that became a four-on-three for Surrey when the Spruce Kings took another penalty. The Spruce Kings, who have been frustrating opponents on their powerplay, did so again killing off the short two man and one man disadvantages. The period would end in a 1-1 tie with the Spruce Kings still leading on the shot clock 26-13.

In the third period, just when it looked like Prince George couldn't find a break, they would get the first of two when Chad Staley intercepted a pass and was able to beat the defender into the Eagles zone. Despite being hauled down on the play in the deep slot, Staley was able to direct the puck through Fordyce and into the back of the net while sliding through the crease on his knees. With the goal, Staley took over top spot on team scoring with 8 goals and 8 assists.

Minutes later the game would be tied again on a play that started with a big hit on Cole Todd right in front of the Surrey bench. Todd was hit up high to the head, but no call was coming. As the puck made it's way back inside the Spruce Kings zone, the Prince George players seemed to be confused leaving a large section of the zone undefended. Jonah Renouf was able to spot his twin brother wide open on the far side faceoff circle and fed the puck through. Murray was well out of his crease leaving the net wide open for Nathan Renouf to score his first in the BCHL in his first game of the season after being injured for the first 18 games for Surrey.

The hockey gods have been watching the Spruce Kings and decided to reward them for their hard work, perseverance and sheer determination. With less than three minutes to go in regulation and the game tied 2-2, the Spruce Kings would dump the puck down the ice and go in hard on the forecheck. Devon Fordyce lost the handle on the puck and put it right on the stick of Brent Lashuk who directed the puck over to Chad Staley. Looking for his second of the night, Fordyce would get back into position to make the save but knocked the rebound out to Mitch Eden who had followed the play down the right side of the wall. Eden was able to slip the puck into the net before Fordyce could do anything about it.

The goal was like a pin popping an overinflated balloon as all energy and excitement was extinguished in the South Surrey Arena. The Spruce Kings would hold on for the final two and half minutes to post their eleventh win of the season and first of the year against the Surrey Eagles. The win gives the Spruce Kings 24 points which is two back of the Mainland Division leading Langley Rivermen. The two teams will meet Saturday night in the Langley Events Centre in what could be a physically demanding game on the Prince George Spruce Kings given how the game ended two weekends ago.

The Spruce Kings certainly don't want to get into that kind of scenario already down four players and possibly six after tonight. Bryant Christian isn't expected back until mid-December at the earliest, Jake LeBrun is still two weeks away from getting back in the game, Mitch Barker is expected back next weekend and Jesse Jenks is away at the World Junior A Challenge until November 11th. After tonight's hits on Justin Rai and Cole Todd, those two forwards are now question marks heading into Saturday's game.

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