|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 Fasthockey.com 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.