|Marco Ballarin (20) scored his first BCHL goal and added two assists|
in his first two games with PG versus Coquitlam
The regular season is done and now begins the hunt to capture the Fred Page Cup. The post season begins for twelve teams in the BCHL tonight including the Prince George Spruce Kings who secured home ice advantage in the first round against the Coquitlam Express.
The Spruce Kings finished the regular season with 70 points while the Express finished third with 59 points. Prince George won the season series over Coquitlam winning seven of the nine meetings and suffering only one loss as well as settling for a single point in a double overtime tie. In all the Spruce Kings amassed a total of 15 points while only giving up four points to the Express.
Despite what appears to be matchup favouring the Prince George Spruce Kings, the Coquitlam Express have their reasons to be optimistic. Coquitlam has the League’s highest goals for record this season with 226 compared to 192 for Prince George. They also led the League in shorthanded goals scored with 19.
In their last game of the regular season, the Express exploded for ten goals and their top line of Ryan Rosenthal, Adam Rockwood and Corey Mackin combined for a total of 9 points in the game. The Pieper brothers also contributed another four points from the second line. Without question the Express can light the lamp and will be looking to do just that against the Spruce Kings tonight.
The Prince George Spruce Kings have limped into the playoffs after having a number of players scratched due to injuries. Karan Toor, Justin Rai and Skylar Pacheco will all draw back into the lineup tonight. The same can’t be said for Brent Lashuk who suffered an injury that could keep the power forward out of the playoffs until at least the end of March. The injury to Cooper Rush is also turning into a longer than expected scenario with the big defenceman still unable to return to action at this time.
The key to success for the Spruce Kings will come from all those things that got them here in the first place. The coaching staff has been preaching a game plan full of accountability and smarts using the transition game to create scoring chances from the speed of the players like Bryant Christian, Jeremiah Luedtke, Chad Staley and Justin Rai up front as well as Christian Weidauer, Skylar Pacheco and Mitch Eden from the blue line.
With Alex Murray getting the start in goal for game one, the team will be looking for another consistent performance between the pipes. Murray finished the season in the Top Five among all goaltenders in the BCHL and in head-to-head meetings vs the Express, has a record of 2.54 GAA and a 923 SV% with 1 shutout.
All that aside though as this is the playoffs ... it's a brand new season and every team and every player starts at zero!
Game One in this Best of 7 series has a 7pm scheduled puck drop with the game 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. Allan Bristowe, Thomas Bohmer and Ron Gallo will provide the play-by-play, analysis and interviews.