|The Spruce Kings wrap up a three game Island Division|
with a stop in Nanaimo versus the Clippers
The Prince George Spruce Kings found the win column last night against the Cowichan Valley Capitals and will be looking to make it two in a row as they wrap up their three game Island Division road trip this afternoon against the Nanaimo Clippers. The win for Prince George did a couple of things which included clinching a playoff spot - just the second team to do so in the BCHL - with fifteen games still remaining in the regular season.
The win also shook the monkey off the Spruce Kings back as they have struggled to find wins after getting off a BC Ferry and having to face an Island Division team in their arena. This wasn't an easy win either and may have come at a small cost with a few players leaving the rink sporting a few bumps and bruises. One player was Matt Painchaud who dropped the mitts and went toe-to-toe with Taylor Allan in an early second period tilt.
The more notable injury to the Spruce Kings actually happened Friday night with Karan Toor sitting out of Saturday's game and not likely to dress on Sunday either. Certainly having secured a post season spot will make it a little easier to deal with for the coaching staff who are quick to acknowledge the importance of Toor for the Spruce Kings both defensively and offensively.
"Not having (Karan) in the lineup is a huge blow for us," said Spruce Kings head coach, Dave Dupas. "He logs so much ice time, he's our number one shut down guy and he chips in offensively too. It's a hole that we can't fill, we can't put one guy in there and say here you go, you take over and do what Karan does cause there's not too many players in the League that can do what Karan can do. We're gonna have to make up for it in other ways."
The Spruce Kings started out exactly the way the coach asked them to - with lots of jump and shots. The Spruce Kings opened up a 7-0 shot lead and had the Cowichan Valley Capitals scrambling inside their own zone through the first half of the first period. When the Capitals did find the net, they couldn't beat Jesse Jenks who was given the start in his hometown. On the Capitals' third shot on goal, the goal light did come one for a second on what looked like a sure goal but Jenks was able to get from pillar to post and take that away.
Prince George was given the game's first powerplay of the game and made quick work with the extra attacker. With a D-to-D pass between Mitch Eden and Skylar Pacheco, Bryant Christian was the next to touch the puck and from the top of faceoff circle he snapped home a wrister that whistle passed Robin Guesse to open the scoring just past the half-way mark of the opening period.
The Capitals were able to tie up the game after breaking up a play in the neutral zone and creating a 2-on-1 with the lone defenceman back being the affiliate player, Stefan Wood from the Kamloops Storm. Wood played the odd man rush perfectly forcing the puck carrier to the outside and giving the player only one option to pass the puck. The play worked for the Capitals with Adam Moody beating Jenks this time to the far side post.
To start the second period, the Capitals went to work with a man advantage and would take over the lead in the game with a power play goal. Shortly after the 2-1 go-ahead goal, Matt Painchaud found himself in a pushing match with Taylor Allan that saw the two trade blows early on before Allan was able to take Painchaud to the ice. Both players were given five minutes for fighting and offsetting minors. Allan's was for cross checking and Painchaud's was for instigating.
On the ensuing faceoff, Bryant Christian won the draw back to Jake LeBrun who ripped another wrister high over the glove of Guesse to once again tie the game. Two minutes later at 5:21, the Capitals thought they put the dagger in the heart of the Spruce Kings when they were able to squeeze a puck under the pads of Jenks after the puck had enough momentum to slip past the short side post after Jenks made the initial save.
Prince George would answer right back with their own lucky bounce that had fans in the stands yelling out their disapproval over a non-call that led to a 3-on-1 odd man rush for the Spruce Kings. In the defensive zone, Adam Moody of the Capitals appeared to be twisted around by Christian Weidauer but the referee's arm stayed by his side as Chad Staley picked up the puck and rushed down the right side wall with Justin Rai and Jeremiah Luedtke on his left side. Looking pass the entire way, Staley centred the puck only to have it bounce off the leg of Matt Berry-Lamontagnia and into his own net tieing the game yet again.
On perhaps the nicest goal of the game, the Spruce Kings would take back their lead late in the second period and not relinquish it. After picking up the puck in far faceoff circle, Luedtke looked to be heading back to the left point but dropped the puck to his skate and purposely kicked up to himself in the high slot. The gifted forward then pulled the puck back in and headed down the slot with the two defenceman left scratching their heads. Luedtke ripped another shot past Guesse for his 12th of the season and the 4-3 lead.
Early in the third period the Spruce Kings would get another powerplay to work with leading to the eventual game winning goal as Staley buried his second of the game and 22nd of the season. The Capitals would get that one back with a powerplay tally of their own but that would be it for the Capitals as the Spruce Kings headed back down the ice and would chase the starting goaltender after they scored their fourth goal on five shots. Bryant Christian earned first star honours after getting his second of the game and 11th of the season.
That same work effort will be at the top of the list for the coaching staff who know that they will have to find other ways of keeping motivation up for the players who have locked up a playoff spot. The Spruce Kings face the Nanaimo Clippers for the first time since the BCHL Showcase. The Clippers are considered to be a very good team with strong goaltending, smart defenceman that can move the puck up the ice quickly and create chances for a forward squad that is considered to be quite deep.
Sitting third in the Island Division, the Clippers have only one player in the League's Top Twenty, but don't let either of those stats fool you. Thirteen players of the twenty skaters have double digit points including four with over thirty points and another trio in the twenties. Jayson Argue ranks just ahead of Alex Murray and just behind Alec Dillon among goaltenders in the BCHL. Argue comes into the game with a .925 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average. On Friday night the Clippers allowed only two goals in a 2-1 loss and before that erased a 3-1 deficit to post a 4-3 regulation time win over the Victoria Grizzlies.
As I wrap up this post, I'm reminded of a comment made by Spruce Kings head coach Dave Dupas when he said that if the Spruce Kings are going to do something this season, they are going to have to find ways to win games in other team's arenas. The same can be used today to help motivate the team who are still in a hunt for top spot in the Mainland Division and will be looking to return home for a stretch of home games that will include a series of five games against the Langley Rivermen.
Today's game has a scheduled 2pm start from the Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo. The game 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 1:40pm. Following the game, the Spruce Kings will begin the long trek home that will start with a two hour Ferry ride back to Vancouver and then the long 10 hour drive home. A week of practice in the Coliseum will lead into a double header next weekend against the Coquitlam Express.