The Spruce Kings are looking for a clear sailing to the win column as they make their way from Powell River to Port Alberni. Last night in Powell River the Spruce Kings suffered their first loss of 2014 and are still looking for their first win of the New Year. Game two of three game weekend goes tonight against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs beginning at 7pm.
The Spruce Kings 2-1 loss was a close game but also indicative of the shots tallied in the game as the Island Division Kings outshot the visitors by a margin of 2-1 (40-20). The first period was a close one with teams trading chances and powerplay opportunities but it wasn't until the last minute that Prince George was able to capitalize on a turnover in their own zone and head up the ice on a 2-on-1 break.
Justin Rai and Jeremiah Luedtke played a quick game of pass up the middle of the ice before Luedtke completed the multiple give-and-go play with his tenth of the season with less than 30 seconds remaining in the opening period. The one goal lead would hold up for over 20 minutes despite Powell River opening up a shooting gallery on Jesse Jenks. The rookie goaltender was stellar in net and came up with one of his biggest saves off a penalty shot chance for Kurt Keats. Before the middle frame ended, Powell River was able to capitalize on a chance out of the corner and tied the game with less than 15 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
Powell River came out strong to start the third period and would again capitalize on a loose puck when the puck was finally poked past Jenks' skate and the goal post. The goal would hold up as the eventual game winner as the home team played a tough defensive style game working at keeping the Spruce Kings shooters to the outside and separating them from the puck.
The Bulldogs are also coming off a loss last night dropping a 4-1 decision to the League's top team, the Victoria Grizzlies. They will be hungry for their first win of 2014 and 11th of the season sitting in the basement of the Island Division with 10 wins, 22 losses, 2 ties and 4 overtime losses. The Bulldogs have allowed the fifth most goals against in the League and are 14th for goals scored. The Spruce Kings would be wise not to look at those numbers as they look to improve their goals for themselves.
Creating and capitalizing on scoring chances will be the focus for the coaching staff as they look for a full sixty minute effort from the players. Following the game Friday night, Spruce Kings Assistant Coach, Colton Buffie was pleased with the effort shown in the first game back from the Christmas break through the first 20 minutes. There was some concern with the amount of shots that got through in the second and third periods but recognized that a lot of those came from the outside and were considered to be low percentage chances.
The Spruce Kings will want to build on those positives and create quality chances of their own in the first meeting of the season against the Bulldogs. The 'dogs are known to be a team that will work hard, putting in a full effort looking for chances to capitalize on. The Bulldogs have five forwards with over twenty points each (Hunter Stewart 31, Justin Georgeson 30, Tryg Strand 29, Mitch Makin 21 and Harlan Orr 20) with the defenceman Darian Henry sitting one point back at 19.
The Alberni Valley Bulldogs earlier this week acquired the playing rights of Prince George hockey product Nathan Warren as their second goaltender. It's not certain if Warren is ready to play his first game for his new team or not as that will be a game time decision. The Spruce Kings will go with Jesse Jenks tonight, Alex Murray will be scratched with a back muscle strain and Tate Sproxton will be in the backup role.
The game is a 7pm start and will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through Fasthockey.com and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.