The Prince George Spruce Kings and the Coquitlam Express will faceoff tonight for the third time this season. The game tonight is scheduled for a 7:30pm puck drop at the Poirier Sports Complex in Coquitlam. In the previous two meetings, Prince George came away with four points posting a 3-2 regulation time win and a 4-3 double overtime win.
Interestingly enough, Bryant Christian scored in both of those games including the overtime winner and, at the time of writing this blog, Christian is listed as a game time decision to play tonight. After missing the entire month of November after taking a puck in the jaw, Christian is well on his way to returning to the game and is itching to get back in the lineup.
Christian had returned home to Moorhead Minnesota to have surgery and recover there; although he worked hard in the gym and on the ice over the past couple of weeks, having his jaw wired shut did leave the Spruce Kings captain ten pounds lighter. Prior to his injury, Christian was listed as 160 pounds but played a much meaner game going to the net hard and getting in the dirty areas. Even if Christian gets into the lineup tonight, that style of play may be missing for a few games.
The Spruce Kings will also have one new player on the roster tonight. Marco Ballarin was playing with the Ridge Meadow Flames prior to receiving a phone call on December 1st from the Spruce Kings General Manager. Ballarin was into his third season with the Flames and was on an over a point a game average with 16 goals and 16 assists in 23 games. At 5.10, 190 pounds, the eighteen year old is expected to add a physical presence up front with offensive upside.
The Spruce Kings roll into Coquitlam tonight coming off a double overtime win over the BCHL's top team, the Powell River Kings. The game was free wheeling at times with both teams getting a number of tremendous opportunities. When the dust settled, it was the Prince George Spruce Kings, off a highlight reel tip in from Chad Staley, that skated away with the two points.
Staley continues to roll along with Jeremiah Luedtke on his side creating chances all game long. Currently ranked 12th among the League's leading point getters, Staley is one point away from a top ten spot and one multi-point game away from jumping up to the top five. Staley and Luedtke as a pairing are almost unstoppable and when that third player is added to the line, the combination becomes one of the toughest lines to defend against in the BCHL.
Perhaps if there is a concern to be had with the play of late, it is that the team has been in a number of one goal games and at times have allowed the opposition to stay in striking distance for far too long. In the past twelve games, only two have been decided by more than a goal and the last five have all been one goal decisions. Defensively, the team is sound holding the opposition to an average of two goals a game in the past ten outings.
Meanwhile the opposition tonight, the Coquitlam Express, have been treating their fans to a light show averaging five goals a game in their last five at home. The Express have a 4-1 record over those five games with the scoresheet showing a total of 42 goals between the home team and their opposition. In their last home game, the Express scored nine times, but did give up six goals. In their last game, played in Nanaimo, the Express offense dried up and they are coming off an 8-1 loss to the Clippers.
What that means for tonight's game, only time will tell. The team has been getting its scoring from six forwards in Adam Rockwood (7G, 31A), Ryan Rosenthal (19G, 17A), Canon Pieper (15G, 15A), Corey Mackin (16G, 13A) Bo Pieper (13G, 16A) and Joey Santucci (15G, 12A). Although Rockwood and Rosenthal are among the League's Top Ten scoring leaders, the team's goaltenders are nowhere to be found in the top twenty list.
The Spruce Kings are considered one of the better defensive teams in the League, proving that tonight will be the test while trying to exploit the other team's defense a key for success. The Spruce Kings will play the Coquitlam Express again on Friday night with an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the third place Express who are eight points back. Prince George is currently three points behind Langley for top spot in the Mainland Division with two games in hand on the Rivermen.
Tonight's game is the fourth Prince George Motors Feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive with Ron St. Clair and Ron Gallo providing all of the action beginning with a pregame show at 7:15pm. Listen live on 99.3 the Drive or online [click here]. The usual online options will also be available with the pay-per-view feed through Fasthockey.com or the audio only online feed with chat options from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.