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.

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