Friday, February 28, 2014

Game Day vs Langley Rivermen

Austin Gray (2) scored his first BCHL goal in his first BCHL game

Tonight marks the final regular season game for both of these playoff bound teams. It is also the ninth and final meeting of the year between the Langley Rivermen and the Prince George Spruce Kings. Both teams have played each other extremely close all year.

After the win last night, the Langley Rivermen took over a point lead on the Spruce Kings with a record of 4-3-1-0 while Prince George’s record sits at 3-3-1-1 against their Mainland Divisional rival. Both teams have scored the same number of goals against each other.

One of the most thrilling goals scored last night came off the stick of the callup, Austin Gray. The sixteen year old Midget AAA player was probably thinking he was going to be filling in for one of the vacancies on the blue line; instead he found himself in a forward role. Gray looked good and often went to the dirty areas in front of the net and that’s where his goal came from as he was able to poke in the loose puck to put Prince George on the board.

After securing a NCAA scholarship to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to play for the Nanooks in the 2015-16 season, Chad Staley tied the game 2-2 picking the top corner while the Spruce Kings were on the powerplay. Braiden Epp scored the other Prince George goal early in the third period, again to tie the game this time a three a-piece. Epp’s goal came after he got into a spirited tilt with Darien Craighead in the second period.

The Langley Rivermen never trailed in the game last night and a slick wrap around late in the third period proved to be the difference in the game. Credit to a depleted Spruce Kings bench that started the game one body short with injuries keeping Cooper Rush, Karan Toor, Skylar Pacheco and Justin Rai sidelined. The injury news has gotten worse with Brent Lashuk suffering a lower body injury that may keep the nineteen year old power forward out of the lineup through the playoffs.

Game time decisions will be made on Toor, Pacheco and Rai as the team gets ready to play their final regular season game and has a chance to tie a franchise record in points. Two seasons ago, the Spruce Kings amassed 72 points in a 60 game regular season schedule. This year, Prince George sits with 70 points through 57 games.

Saturday night the team will hold its annual player awards banquet and silent auction at the Coast Inn of the North. It is open to the public and tickets can be purchased in the Spruce Kings office for $29.00 or at the Coast Inn of the North.

The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Join Ron St. Clair, Thomas Bohmer and Ron Gallo for all the play-by-play of the final regular season game.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Game Day vs Langley Rivermen

Mitch Eden (27) celebrates his game tying goal Sunday

There’s only one game on the BCHL schedule tonight and it features the top two teams from the Mainland Division. The Langley Rivermen are in town, to start a double header to wrap-up the regular season, that’s packed with star power on both ends of the ice.

When the dust finally settles these two teams will have played each other nine times this season with things as close as they could possibly be heading into the final two meetings. Through seven games both teams have three wins and share a tie with each other. The Spruce Kings have the edge with a single point garnered in an overtime loss. They also have a plus two in the goals for against column having outscored the Rivermen 19-17 in those seven matchups.

In their last meeting nothing was settled after seventy minutes in a game that saw some spectacular goaltending at both ends and play makers doing everything they could to grab hold of some momentum. In that game Alex Murray stopped 37 of 40 shots as the icing on an already good weekend for the twenty year old goaltender to earn the BCHL Player of the Week honours.

Not to be outdone, the Langley Rivermen had some serious considerations for the awards with two players picking up hat tricks in a previous game. Matt Ustaski and Evan Anderson both scored important goals for Langley to ensure that they too picked up the single point and remain in the hunt for top spot in the BCHL overall.

Coming in to this game tonight, the Rivermen are tied with Victoria for a share of top spot having amassed 78 points through 56 games so far. Both teams have two games remaining in the season. Langley might think they have the tougher schedule with both their games against Prince George but Victoria has to play a home-and-home series with the Cowichan Valley Capitals who are one point back of the final playoff spot in the Island Division.

These final games are intense all around the League and if tonight’s game lives up to its billing, it will be a measuring stick for the rest of the games to wrap up the regular season and send fans excitedly to the post season. All spots in the Mainland Division have been secured for playoff seeding with games beginning on Tuesday March 4th.

The Langley Rivermen (1) will host the Surrey Eagles (4) in that best of seven Mainland Division matchup while the Spruce Kings (2) will open at home with one of their best ever BCHL records against the Coquitlam Express (3).

The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Join Ron St. Clair, Thomas Bohmer and Ron Gallo from the Coliseum with all the play-by-play.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Game Day at Langley Rivermen

Justin Rai (17) scored the double overtime winner last night
after receiving the heads up pass from Mitch Eden (27)
Photo courtesy Garrett James Photography
With a 2 and 0 record on this three game road trip, the Prince George Spruce Kings take their game to the Langley Events Centre to faceoff against the number one team in the Mainland Division. The Rivermen secured top spot in the Division on Friday night with an 8-5 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs. On that same night, the Spruce Kings had a mathematical chance of catching Langley and defeated Coquitlam 3-2. Last night Prince George erased a 3-0 first period deficit to the Chiefs to win the game 5-4 in double overtime.
While the Spruce Kings look to keep rolling and finish up a three game weekend with another win, they are also mindful of the fact that this is the first of three in a row against the Langley Rivermen. Although this can't be officially billed as a playoff preview, it very well could be just that if both teams do what they are expected to do in the first round. Today's game is a 2pm start which adds a wrinkle becoming the third game in basically two and a half days for the Prince George Spruce Kings.
While the Spruce Kings were playing in extra time last night and then traveling back to their home base before winding down for the night, the Rivermen had the option of making it an early night and getting up early while still be rested if they took the option of watching the Gold Medal game in the Winter Olympics. That option of getting up was not as easy to make for the boys representing the North. Although you have to imagine that some if not most or even all, did just that.
Travel in the BCHL for Prince George has never been easy, but testing the wariness of that travel on the final day of a long road trip is not ideal. Throughout the season, the players have been coached both on the ice and off the ice when it comes to managing the game; rest is a big part of that management. Some of that game management was seen last night in Chilliwack, when the Spruce Kings found themselves down 3-0 through a three minute span in the first half of the first period.
The Chilliwack Chiefs opened the scoring on an unassisted break-away by Jordan Kawaguchi at the 9:16 mark. Shortly after that, Prince George took back-to-back penalties allowing the Chiefs to set up on an extended two man advantage with Matthew Tibbett scoring from the slot at 11:25. Kawaguchi would get his second of the game and give the home town fans reason to be excited for the game they chose to come out and watch when he was fed a pass from Caleb Thompson, stepped over the Spruce Kings blue line and ripped a shot glove side at 12:41.
Although Jesse Jenks can't be faulted for the poor start, sometimes the coaching staff had to make the change and put Alex Murray in for the rest of the game. The decision served its purpose and the team was able to start its climb out of the hole they had dug for themselves. On their second power play early in the second period, Sean Landrey took the ensuing faceoff and won it back to Skylar Pacheco. Landrey then went to the front of the net and was able to get the blade of his stick on the point shot to tip the puck into the back of the net.
That goal came at 7:12 and it would be another ten minutes before there was another goal, it to came on a Spruce Kings powerplay. With Jeremiah Luedtke, Justin Rai and Chad Staley cycling the puck down low, Luedtke brought the puck to the top of the crease for the first shot. The Chiefs defender was unable to clear the puck leaving it for Staley to try, his shot was stopped with the rebound coming out to Rai who lifted his 20th of the season over the stretched out netminder and Prince George was within one.
Before the goal could be announced in Prospera Centre, the line of Braiden Epp, Brogan O'Brien and Marco Ballarin all contributed on the tying goal just 40 seconds later. Epp, who played one of his best games all season, stole the puck in the neutral zone and passed it up to O'Brien who walked over the blue line and took a big shot from the top of the faceoff circle. The save was made but a juicy rebound came right onto the stick of Marco Ballarin who also went with a high shot to score his fifth of the season and pull the Spruce Kings even.
Chad Staley would give Prince George their first lead of the game three minutes into the third period when he received a pass from Jeremiah Luedtke in the low slot and as he skated through the top of the crease, backhanded a rising shot that fooled Josh Halpenny on the glove side. The Chilliwack Chiefs, who put on a strong game, didn't go away and at one point were awarded a penalty shot when Matthew Tibbett was hauled down by Christian Weidauer and fell awkwardly into the goal post back first. Tibbett looked to be shaken up on the play but elected to take the shot that Alex Murray kicked aside with right foot.
That was one of Murray's nineteen saves on the night, the lone save he couldn't make would come a few moments later when Jaret Babych skated down the right wing and let a howitzer go that squeezed through the blocker and body just above the big pads of Murray to tie the game up at four goals a-piece. That Spruce Kings came to within a skate blade and mound of snow from winning the game outright in the final minute of regulation time when Jake LeBrun tried to tap home a shot from the side of the net leaving the puck sitting against the goal post.
With overtime required both teams would be credited with two shots each in the first five minutes of extra time. In the second overtime period, Mitch Eden picked up the puck inside his own zone, spotted Justin Rai in the middle and fed the perfect pass for the speedy forward who picked it up on the fly and got a stride on the defender. The shot was another high shot, this time blocker side 19 seconds into double overtime giving Rai his 21st goal of the season and fourth game winning goal of the year.
The win is the Spruce Kings 32nd on the season, giving them 69 points, which is just 3 shy of their all time BCHL franchise record mark of 72 set just two seasons ago when PG finished with 72 points in 60 games. This year the game played are only 58 and with three games remaining, the Spruce Kings have a legitimate chance of catching and surpassing that total. Of course standing in the way are the Langley Rivermen who have 77 points.
As mentioned, the Rivermen will be a rested group, but the Spruce Kings may have adrenaline on their side. Throughout the season, Prince George has come up with six wins in eight of those third games in a three game set. A couple of them have even come against the Langley Rivermen. Overall the Spruce Kings head-to-head record against Langley has Prince George leading by a single point. These two teams have played each other six times so far with both teams picking up three wins, one of Langley's wins came in overtime. As for goal differential, Prince George leads that 16-14.
Those are just numbers, the Spruce Kings will want to have a solid effort from top to bottom today and may want to test a team early that has secured top spot and had the day off yesterday. The early start could be beneficial to a team that isn't at a hundred percent right now. Cooper Rush is still waiting doctor clearance to return to Prince George, Riley Hawes is back home recouping, Brent Lashuk was a scratch last night and will be a game time decision today and Karan Toor will be a game time decision today.
Injuries are another variable that has to be managed accordingly, but with the confidence that the coaching staff has been putting into the younger players, this team is exuding confidence on every line and every line has been creating chances. Look to see another strong game from the likes of Braiden Epp, Brogan O'Brien, Matt Painchaud, Cole Todd, Marco Ballarin and Mitch Barker up front who are showing that the long term future of the Spruce Kings is bright.
It is an early game today with puck drop scheduled for 2pm from the Langley Events Centre. The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through 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 return home to wrap up the regular season with a double header on Thursday and Friday against this very same Langley Rivermen squad.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Game Day at Chilliwack Chiefs

Prince George Spruce Kings and Chilliwack Chiefs
meet for the final time this season

Coming off a 3-2 win over the Coquitlam Express, the Prince George Spruce Kings will move up the Fraser Valley to take on another Mainland Divisional opponent in the Chilliwack Chiefs. Both teams were in action last night with the Chiefs falling 8-5 to the Langley Rivermen which cemented seeding in the Mainland Division. The Rivermen will finish as the Divisional Champions while the Spruce Kings will come in second.

The Spruce Kings have four games remaining in the regular season and two games to go to wrap up this final regular season road trip. Tonight's game is a 7pm start in the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack, the Spruce Kings will wrap up the weekend with a matinee game Sunday at 2pm against the Langley Rivermen. Tonight's game may look a little like a no-hitter, but based on results from last night, don't jump to that conclusion too quickly.

The Chiefs scored five goals against the number one team in the Division showing that they are not prepared to have this season end without making some statements heading into a rebuilding off-season. The Chiefs have a good nucleus of players eligible to return for next season and those players are playing for pride this season and spots for next year. Also trying to make a lasting impression, especially on the scouts in the stands, are the crop of twenty year olds that are down to their last few games of their junior careers.

The Spruce Kings are looking at tightening up systems and maintaining that style of play that has led them to one of their best seasons over the last ten years. Under head coach Dave Dupas, the team has shown an increase in their season standings and this second place finish is the best yet with four games remaining. The team has been compared to the 2004-05 edition that went to the Conference Finals against the Vernon Vipers. A date against the Vernon Vipers would be an ideal situation this year as the Interior Division team is hosting the 2014 RBC Royal Bank Cup.

Prince George heads in to tonight's game as the favourite with a record of 6 wins and 1 overtime loss against the Chiefs. In their last outing, the Spruce Kings surprised Chilliwack with two goals scored in the opening 30 seconds of the game ending in a 3-0 shutout win. Jesse Jenks picked up his first BCHL shutout in that game, it was also highlighted by a significant player trade beforehand. Caleb Thompson and Cooper Rush swapped jerseys in a trade that was concluded just hours before puck drop.

Caleb Thompson was named the game's FortisBC Energy Player of the Game for the Chilliwack Chiefs, while Cooper Rush was knocked out of the game early in the second period and has not been able to play since. Rush remains at home in Toronto waiting for another doctor's evaluation early next week on whether or not the big blueliner can return to the ice. The other scratch for the Spruce Kings is Riley Hawes who remains at home recouping from an upper body injury suffered last weekend against the Nanaimo Clippers.

In last night's game, the coaching staff stuck to their game plan of giving the younger players every opportunity to play a full game and contribute. Stephen Penner opened the scoring with his first goal of the season from the left point that deflected off a defender's leg in front. Brent Lashuk scored his 22nd of the season on a tip in front and Chad Staley picked up his 27th in the final minute of the second period which turned into his eighth gaming winning goal of the season.

I would expect to see a full compliment of shifts for the young players again tonight. Cole Todd has been getting a number of shifts in key situations of late including on the penalty kill. Braiden Epp has also been turning on the jets and on one play last night he burned a defenceman flying down the right wing. He then cut hard through the top of the crease and forced Pierce Duskenko to stretch across from one post to the other post to make the save. A save he never really recovered from and didn't return to the game for the third period.

A number of player families are on hand this weekend to cheer on the boys wearing the crown. In the second intermission of tonight's game, Ron Gallo will be talking Jordy Christian, the former Spruce Kings captain and the older brother of current captian, Bryant Christian.

The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Game Day at Coquitlam Express

Danny Kiraly and the Spruce Kings will be
looking for a big win over the Coquitlam Express tonight

The Prince George Spruce Kings start their final regular season road trip with what is shaping up to be a first round playoff preview against the Coquitlam Express. The Spruce Kings and the Express have been on a collision course to meet in the month of March since the start of the calendar year and tonight's game will do a lot to satisfy a level of confidence for the players, coaches and fans for the winning team.

The Spruce Kings are looking to answer back with a win after suffering back-to-back one goal losses last weekend at home. The Coquitlam Express have a had a little better luck since they last played the Prince George team; although, they are also coming off a loss in their last outing Tuesday night against the Langley Rivermen. The Rivermen have all but locked up top spot in the Mainland Division and only a need a win tonight over the Chilliwack Chiefs to do so.

Prince George has had lots of success through the regular season having won 6 of the eight meetings and only losing one outright ... the last time these two teams met in Coquitlam. Records aside, there is a strong believe that you are only as good as the game you are playing in now. You will see that from the Express who also know of the regular season record and that they are destined to meet the Spruce Kings when the playoffs begin in Prince George on March 4th.

In the Spruce Kings two most recent games, the team found themselves unable to get just that one more goal losing 4-3 to the Langley Rivermen and then 2-1 to the Nanaimo Clippers. Both games were highly charged games and resulted in lots of shots with big saves. On one hand the Spruce Kings coaching staff was happy, especially with the Friday night game that saw the team erase a three goal deficit to draw even. Unfortunately a miscue in the defensive zone resulted in the game winning goal. Those miscues will be something that the coaching staff will want to see reduced if not eliminated all together against a team that is quite capable of blowing open a game.

The Express showed that in their last meeting against the Spruce Kings ... a game they never trailed in and went on to win 6-3. In their past five games, Coquitlam has come up with some big wins including a 7-1 triumph over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 3-0 shutout of the Cowichan Valley Captials and 5-2 over the Powell River Kings in Powell River.

Four members of the Express occupy spots in the League's Top Twenty goalscorers. Leading the way is Adam Rockwood with 68 points (12G, 56A) in fifth spot followed by Canon Pieper in seventh (31G, 31A), Ryan Rosenthal (31G, 27A) in 11th and Bo Pieper rounds out the offensive group in 19th spot with 23 goals and 31 assists. There's unquestionable a lot of weapons in those four but the team is even deeper than that and as we've seen with wins in Prince George, those players have to be kept in check the entire game and not given the room they need to wind it up.

The Spruce Kings game has been one of opportunity many times and not over committing. The coaching staff is big on defensive accountability and will be looking for it again tonight as the team starts a three game weekend set. It has been a few weeks since the team has been on the road and that might be another factor as players search for their forgotten road routine. At this time of the year, nothing is ever routine and the Spruce Kings need to be aware of that against a team that is looking for the win to fuel their fire for the first round meeting that is all but eminent.

The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Join Ron Gallo for all the play-by-play and analysis of the game tonight from Coquitlam.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Game Day vs Nanaimo Clippers

Chad Staley and the Spruce Kings will meet
for the third time this season and first time in Prince George

After a rare Saturday night off, the Prince George Spruce Kings are back on the ice in their 53rd game of the season against the Nanaimo Clippers. Playing in different divisions, the Spruce Kings and Clippers have already met twice with Nanaimo winning both games 3-1 at the BCHL Showcase on the opening weekend of play and 4-1 four weeks ago in Nanaimo.

In that meeting, the Clippers came out quick and cashed in on some early chances scoring 4 first period goals en route to the win on home ice. The Spruce Kings have to be wary of that quick start again tonight and they should be, having suffered a similar fate on Friday night against the Langley Rivermen.

Although the Spruce Kings were able to erase a three goal deficit in the first period on Friday night, they could not fully recover and saw their attempted comeback fall short with a 4-3 loss. When the team was down in that first period, it was the captain that led the charge for Prince George pouncing on a loose puck at the side of the net. Mitch Eden helped to set up that goal and then added two more for the cause scoring late in the first period and early in the second.

The Spruce Kings have ten more points in two fewer games than the Clippers so far this season, but would love nothing more than to pick up another win on the season in their game in hand on the Langley Rivermen. Prince George is still very much in the running for top spot in the Mainland Division and for top spot overall in the BCHL sitting eight points behind the number one team with three more head-to-head games to be played against the Rivermen.

The day of rest should be of benefit for both teams as the Spruce Kings have been a bit banged up of late and are just getting back to healthy. Cooper Rush remains the only player on the injured list but the expectation is that the 6 foot 7 towering defenceman will be able to join the team late next week and get in a game or two before the end of the regular season.

The Nanaimo Clippers are coming off an 8-2 win over the Chiefs in Chilliwack on Friday night which gave them a better than .500 record in their last ten (5-4-0-1). On the road the Clippers have a record of 12-13-1-1 and will be looking to make that a .500 record as well. The Spruce Kings on home ice have been performing very well and have not lost back-to-back games in front of the Castle faithful.

After this game, the Spruce Kings will head out on the road for their final set of away games – a three game set with stops in Coquitlam, Chilliwack and Langley. The following weekend will feature a double header versus Langley to close out the regular season. The playoffs will begin in Prince George March 4th and 5th.

The matinee game, with puck drop at 3pm, will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 2:40pm.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Game Day vs Langley Rivermen

Mitch Barker (14) helped to take down the Rivermen
last night scoring his first BCHL goal

With a 3-1 win last night, the Prince George Spruce Kings secured home ice advantage in the first round of the BCHL Playoffs. It was a big a win for the second place team in the Mainland Division but all that changed is the knowing that Games 1 & 2 will be on home ice March 4th and 5th. That and also that the Spruce Kings closed the gap to just six points for top spot in the Mainland Division.

The game plan for the Langley Rivermen was to come out quick and quiet the fans in the Coliseum, but Alex Murray made that first save and from there the game took an immediate turn in favour of Prince George. On the ensuing rush, the Spruce Kings thought they had opened the scoring when Brent Lashuk was pushed into the goaltender leaving a wide open cage for Bryant Christian to fire the puck into.

The goal was waved off but that didn’t deter the home team who were obviously fired up for this meeting. On the very next shift, Braiden Epp was able to knock in a puck after it bounced off the end boards and eluded Brock Crossthwaite. At the 6:30 mark of the opening period, Brent Lashuk registered his twentieth goal of the season on the Spruce Kings fifth shot on net.

That was the end of Crossthwaite’s night but before Lyndon Stanwood could get settled between the pipes, Mitch Barker came busting down the left side wing and ripped his first of the season five-hole to give Prince George a 3-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game. After that things would settle down and the two teams would trade chances with the Langley Rivermen scoring a controversial goal mid-way through the second period.

The ensuing discussion took over two minutes and required a physics major to theorize that it must have been a good goal. In the second half of the game, the Langley Rivermen were relentless looking to pull within one. Alex Murray made some unbelievable saves and, with a little help from the iron, kept the Rivermen at bay the rest of the way.

Fans in the Castle have seen their team over the years pull out all the stops and defeat the top teams. Last night’s win reminded many of the time the Spruce Kings put an end to a record setting win streak by the Penticton Vees. The 3-1 win last night ranks right up there as Prince George ended Langley’s twelve game unbeaten streak, but the Rivermen are sure to bring their best game back for tonight’s rematch. The Spruce Kings will have to be as good and perhaps even better if they want to close the gap on first place even more.

The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Join Ron St. Clair, Thomas Bohmer and Ron Gallo for all the play-by-play and analysis of the game.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Game Day vs Langley Rivermen

Sean Landrey and the Spruce Kings face off against
the top team in the BCHL Mainland Division tonight

Without question, tonight’s game is arguably the most anticipated matchup in the BCHL since the Christmas Break. These two teams have had their share of top spot in the Mainland Division with the Langley Rivermen refusing to give it up since they claimed it in December.

The Spruce Kings host the Rivermen tonight in the first half of a double-header. It is also the first of a five game series that will see these two teams play four times in Prince George and once in Langley over the span of sixteen days. The points possible from this matchup could see the Langley Rivermen take a commanding lead in the Mainland Division and challenge for top spot overall in the League.

Those points are also very appealing for the Spruce Kings who are eight points behind with a game in hand on the Rivermen. A sweep of the double dip would leave Prince George just four points back setting up a huge final weekend in the regular season.

Again not to get ahead of themselves will be the key; the Langley Rivermen sit in top spot for a reason … they are a good team. The Rivermen are coming off a weekend sweep of the Vernon Vipers and have points in their last twelve games (10-0-1-1). In fact Langley has not suffered a regulation time lost yet in the 2014 calendar year; meaning the team comes in to Prince George exuding confidence.

The Prince George Spruce Kings have played some of their toughest hockey in 2014 and have managed to maintain pace in the race for top spot. They have a record of 6-3-1-0 in their last ten games and are 4-1-1-0 playing in front of their fans during the first six games of their nine game home stand.

The Spruce Kings are as close to healthy as they have been in awhile with the return of Mitch Eden and Danny Kiraly tonight. Cooper Rush is the only player out with an injury but is expected to join the Spruce Kings as early as next weekend.

Kiraly suffered a concussion three weeks ago and has been practicing with the team symptom free for over a week now. Eden will also play in his first game back since being sidelined with a lower body injury and missing out on last weekend’s games. All of that is a welcome relieve to the coaching staff and especially to Karan Toor, Christian Weidauer and Skylar Pacheco who were called upon to log a lot of minutes in the last few games.

Tonight's game is also the Spruce Kings Amnesty Game. All fans are encouraged to bring any unused tickets they have from this season and redeem them for a seat at tonight's game with no additional service charges or fees. Spruce Kings Communications Director, Ron Gallo, said that this is an opportunity for all fans to enjoy a game when they might not have been otherwise able to or previously and not be out of pocket for the hottest ticket in town.

If you are still unable to attend the game in person tonight, it will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Join Ron St. Clair, Thomas Bohmer and Ron Gallo for all the play-by-play and analysis of the most anticipated game of the season!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Game Day vs West Kelowna Warriors

The Prince George Spruce Kings find themselves on 99.3 the Drive tonight for the final regular season installment of the Prince George Motors Feature Game of the Month. Game number 50 in a 58 game regular season schedule has the Spruce Kings hosting another team that is looking to secure top spot in their division.

The West Kelowna Warriors come in to tonight’s game hot on the heels of the Penticton Vees in the Interior Division just two points back and with a game in hand. Through 49 games, the Warriors have compiled an impressive record of 30 wins, 13 losses, 3 ties and 3 overtime losses. Equally impressive is their league leading road record (16-4-2-3) that has netted them 37 of their 66 points.

The Warriors are a deep team and have the numbers to show for it averaging a league’s second best 3.71 goals per game. Those goals come from throughout the roster with just one player showing up on the League’s Top Twenty leaderboard.

Jason Cotton comes into the game tonight with 50 points (21G, 29A) but it is the list of players below him that shows off the depth with nine players in double digits for goals and better than 30 points on the season. Combined the team’s top ten have 164 goals and 225 assists and only one of those are a defenceman. Taki Pantziris is the top D-man with 13 goals and 20 assists.

The Spruce Kings are in line with the Warriors as far as average goals per game go with 3.41. They too have a long list of offensive weapons up front but their strength comes from the defense with five blueliners contributing big numbers to the team’s overall offensive output. From the blue line back, the Spruce Kings allow fewer goals against than the Warriors (2.71 vs 2.84) and that will be where this game is won or lost tonight.

Perhaps last night was a lesson learned for the Spruce Kings who found themselves in a run and gun situation with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. The visitors tried to wear down the Prince George defenders and were peppering shots on net from everywhere in the zone. To come away on the wrong side of a 2-1 score stung, especially after the team felt they created better chances throughout the game.

The last time these two teams met, the Prince George Spruce Kings were the ones that capitalized early and then held on for the rest of the game to post a 3-2 win on October 12th in West Kelowna. In that game, Skylar Pacheco, Justin Rai and Christian Weidauer all scored in the first period while keeping the Warriors at bay the rest of the way.

Tonight's game is the sixth installment of the Prince George Motors Feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive, a feature that has proven fruitful for the Spruce Kings who come in to the game with a 5-0 record. The game will be broadcast live on 99.3 the Drive and we encourage all listeners to tune in to the game at 99.3 on the FM dial or listen from the radio station's website (CLICK HERE to launch the audio player). The game will also be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and it's usual audio only online option on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:45pm.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Game Day vs Alberni Valley Bulldogs

Mitch Eden (27) will be one of three defenceman out
of the lineup tonight versus the Alberni Valley Bulldogs

The Prince George Spruce Kings are halfway through their longest home stand of the season and tonight they have to put a pretty good four game record to the test against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Both teams have a lot at stake in this contest where playoff implications abound with every game.

For Prince George, they have their sights set once again on top spot in the Mainland Division currently six points back of the Langley Rivermen with a game in hand. Meanwhile Alberni Valley is coming off a 5-2 mid-week victory over the Nanaimo Clippers that saw the Bulldogs jump into that final playoff spot in the Island Division.

Don’t let their record fool you, because their bark is actually less than their bite as the Spruce Kings found all too quickly back on January 4th in Port Alberni. In that game, the Bulldogs played a very physical game and used a tenacious fore check to win all the battles. As for their positioning in the Island Division, their record is not an indication of their game as of late.

The Bulldogs had a very rough start to the season and were a beaten down bunch, losers of twelve of their first fifteen games and only four points to show through the first two months of the season. Since then the Bulldogs record is a much improved .500 with 15 wins, 15 losses and 5 overtime losses and improving.

Led by the likes of Justin Georgeson (16G, 28A), Hunter Stewart (10G, 33A) and Tryg Strand (20G, 17A), Alberni Valley has a few dogs in their kennel that can bite. Don’t overlook a few others such as Mitch Owsley (5G, 7A) who has been averaging just over a point a game since being acquired at the trade deadline from the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

The Spruce Kings are feeling a lot like top dog these days with a three game winning streak that earned them a mention among the Nation’s best junior teams in the CJHL’s Weekly Top Twenty Rankings. Playing in the Castle has seen the team become the subject of many conversations around the town and for the players; they are still in awe of the show of support both at the games and away from the arena.

The team will have to temper all of that in the face of some key injuries; however, Cooper Rush is still at home recovering from a knee injury and remains hopeful to join the Spruce Kings for games before the end of the regular season. Danny Kiraly, who was checked hard into the end boards, has had recurring symptoms from the concussion he suffered and now Mitch Eden becomes the third blueliner to watch from the sidelines after suffering a lower body injury during practice this week. Braiden Epp is also out tonight with an upper body injury considered to be day-to-day.

Jordan Low (defense) and Mitch Barker (forward) will both draw in to the lineup this weekend. Low will be in his fifth game with the Spruce Kings after being called up for a third consecutive weekend from his 100 Mile House Wranglers. With so many bodies missing from the blueline, local hockey product Sean Landrey will be patrolling the blueline alongside Karan Toor, Christian Weidauer, Skylar Pacheco, Stephen Penner and Jordan Low.

With both Epp and Landrey missing from the forward lines, Barker will get another game under his belt playing on a line with Brogan O'Brien and Cole Todd. The top two lines will remain unchanged and certainly the offensive output of those players will also remain unchanged. Justin Rai earned an honourable mention for a seven point weekend in two games versus the Coquitlam Express. Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke also had impressive point production with an average of three points per game.

Tonight's game gets underway at 7pm and will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Game Day vs the Coquitlam Express

Justin Rai (17) picked up first star honours last night
with 2 goals and 3 assists in a 7-4 win

The Prince George Spruce Kings and Coquitlam Express conclude their marathon run of games tonight with the fourth consecutive meeting in the Coliseum. This is also the eighth meeting of the season between these two clubs with one more matchup remaining in February and of course the potential of a first round playoff matchup still very much exists.

Last night the Spruce Kings pulled away from the Express in the third period after a back and forth and close affair through two periods of play. In the first period, it was Coquitlam that opened the scoring while on a two man advantage. The Spruce Kings tied it with five minutes remaining in the opening frame with the first of three on the night from Chad Staley.

To start the second period, Justin Rai gave Prince George their first lead of the game with a powerplay goal of their own. Midway through the middle frame, the Express would capitalize on their second two man advantage to tie the game at two. Once again it would be Justin Rai that would restore the Spruce Kings one goal lead in the third period only to have Coquitlam answer.

When Christian Weidauer scored the first of three quick Prince George goals less than a minute later, the Spruce Kings never looked back. Brogan O’Brien registered the eventual game winner 27 seconds after Weidauer’s and Staley potted his second of the night 90 seconds after that. Staley added another into the empty net before the Express were able to get their third powerplay goal of the night.

The 7-4 win put Prince George eight points up on Coquitlam and eight points back of the Langley Rivermen. With the front running Rivermen enjoying a weekend off, the Spruce Kings are playing two of their three games in hand on their Mainland Divisional opponent. That makes this game tonight very appealing for Prince George who still have a very good chance at catching Langley for that top spot and making for an interesting finish to the season.

Before getting too far ahead of themselves, the Spruce Kings will have to continue to play the style of game that has netted five of a possible six points against a very offensively potent team. The Coquitlam Express still have four of the League’s top 15 offensive players including third overall, Adam Rockwood.

Also in the mix is Ryan Rosenthal, who played in his first game after missing the previous seven. Rosenthal scored the lone even strength goal for Coquitlam last night. Bo and Canon Pieper are also offensive weapons that Prince George will need to continue to contain. Certainly the Express are making plans of finding the Pieper brothers more time and space to work with to pick up tonight’s points.

The Spruce Kings top line of Chad Staley (3G, 1A), Jeremiah Luedtke (5A) and Justin Rai (2G, 3A) had an impressive showing last night amassing a total of 14 points. Staley saw his name jump back into the League's Top 15 list landing in 11th spot with his four points. Meanwhile Luedtke is poised to jump into the Top 20 sitting just two points back of that leaderboard.

As happy as everyone is with the win and the point production of the Spruce Kings top line along with contributions from through the lineup, the coaching staff is still worried about making sure things are looked after defensively and staying disciplined throughout. A series of penalties against Prince George did provide for three of the four goals that Coquitlam scored and it could have been worse with the Express on five powerplays that they didn't capitalize on.

The doors to the Coliseum open at 6pm for tonight's 7pm game start. For those unable to be in attendance, the game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Join Ron St. Clair and Tom Bohmer for the call of the game along with Ron Gallo as the Spruce Kings wrap a four game home stand against the Coquitlam Express.