Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Ends With a Bang

The Spruce Kings came into tonight;s match up on a high note, having dumped another division rival just two nights before. Trail came into this match up fresh off the Christmas break, and it showed on the ice through out the first 40 minutes. There was one man who brought his “A” game the entire game, and that was Smokies goaltender Lyndon Standwood. Stanwood many miraculous saves throughout the game, and really was the only reason the Spruce Kings didn't run the score u into the double digits.

The first period alone he faced 14 shots, saving all but one as Michael Colantone got his 4th goal in the past two games. The goal came on a back door feed, one that was made by Jujhar Khaira, but not before Stanwood stoned them on the exact same play minutes earlier. The Spruce Kings continued to fire pucks on the Smokies goaltender throughout the period, many of them quality chances. Ty Swabb was not tested on much on the other hand, having to stop 7 shots.

The Second Period is where the Spruce Kings broke the play wide open, and were finally able to solve Stanwood more than once. Prince George was robbed on multiple occasions in the second, but Leo Fitzgerald made it 2-0, firing home a cross ice pass from his brother Myles. Chase Golightly would add a third marker, a shot that eventually went in off the body of a Smoke Eater. Stanwood faced another 13 shots in the period, but once again, he made a handful of saves that could make any highlight real.

The third period started off with a bang for Trail, as former Spruce King Connor Tiechko put a bouncing puck past Ty Swabb to end his shutout bid. It was a goal that seemed to spark the Smoke Eaters as Brent Baltus scored his 5th of the season, bringing his team within one. The Smokies had new life, and they were pressing hard to tie the game up. The Spruce Kings were back on their heels, and needed to find a way to get another puck past Stanwood quickly before the momentum completely shifted. It would take 8 minutes, but finally Prince George's top line was able to put the icing on the cake as Paul De Jersey scored his 27th of the season. Jujhar Khaira would add a fifth insurance marker, one that ultimately wouldn't be needed as the Smoke Eaters wouldn't score again, giving the Spruce Kings a 5-2 win

The win gives Prince George 39 points through 35 games, helping them keep their fourth place spot in the Interior Conference standings. Vernon won tonight as well, meaning they still sit in fifth place, 2 points behind the Spruce Kings

Click here to view the entire league standings

Click here to view tonight's box score

The Three Stars:

3)(PG)Chase Golightly – 1 Goal 1 Assist
2)(PG)Jujhar Khaira – 1 Goal 2 Assists
1)(TRL)Lyndon Stanwood – 43 Saves

Next Up:

The Spruce Kings now have a 5 day break and will next suit up Thursday January 5th and 6th at the Castle against Westside. Until then, we hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year celebration

Smoke in the Castle

Gerry Fitzgerald (21) and the rest of the Spruce Kings
will be looking to pull away to end 2011 and head into 2012

Tonight marks the end of the calendar year for the Spruce Kings as they play their final game of 2011 against the Trail Smoke Eaters. This game is an important one for the psyche of both teams ... being able to end the year on a positive note will provide the confidence required to start 2012 when the games start to heat up.

These two teams haven't seen each other except for an early season double header in the Coliseum back in the middle of October. At the time the season was young but there were signs that the Smoke Eaters were having some difficulties while the Spruce Kings were busy trying the erase the memory of a disappointing season the previous year. The Spruce Kings won both games 8-0 and 5-2. This is third and final time that the Smoke Eaters will come to Prince George this season; the Spruce Kings have two double headers in Trail in the New Year (February 10 & 11 and March 2 & 3).

For the Spruce Kings, 2011 started with the promise that things were going to get better for a team that had struggled in the first half of the season. And for the most part they were a much better team fighting right down to the wire for a playoff spot that eluded them because the hole was just too deep that had been dug. This year it is the Trail Smoke Eaters that are in that same position and will be looking to build for the future one game at a time.

This is the first game back after the Christmas Break for the Trail Smoke Eaters; despite their record, they will be coming in as unknown. In their final weekend before the break the Smoke Eaters were outscored 15-1 leaving the team with lots of time on their hands to evaluate their position. As is the case with most extended breaks (almost a full two weeks for Trail), the little aches and pains go away and the desire to compete comes back. If the Smoke Eaters used some of that time to skate, they could be a very dangerous opponent tonight and one that the Spruce Kings certainly can't take for granted.

The Spruce Kings have already played one game since the Christmas Break, a 4-2 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs in Chilliwack. Prince George was full of jump and was able to get shots and lots of them through to the goaltender, but the best player on the ice was not suffering from any turkey hangover as he turned away all 29 shots he faced in the first two periods. The Spruce Kings were finally able to break through the armour led by Michael Colantone's natural hattrick and then after the Chiefs pulled to within one it was De Jersey who put the game away scoring his 27th of the season to reclaim the lead atop the League's scoring machines.

The win gave the Spruce Kings sole possession of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Interior Conference and last night the Salmon Arm Silverbacks provided a late gift defeating the Vernon Vipers 7-4 to keep them two points back of Prince George. The Vernon Vipers also play tonight and have two games in hand on the Spruce Kings so a win tonight is essential for Prince George to maintain some distance ahead of the three time defending BCHL Champions.

Over the month of December the goals against average for the Spruce Kings net protectors has come down from 3.56 to 3.24 thanks in part to a deal made by Mike Hawes at the beginning of the month that brought Ty Swabb over from the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Since arriving in PG, Swabb has played in five games with a record of 3 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie. To go along with the 7 points, Swabb has a goals against average of 2.50 (6th in the League) and the second best save percentage of .926 as measured for goalies having played in four or more games.

Offensively things could be a little better as the team has been in a number of one goal games and haven't been able to deliver those decisive blows on the scoreboard. Through nine games in the month of December, the Spruce Kings have scored 27 times and been scored on 21 times. Six of the nine games were decided by a single goal or less and their biggest goal spread was a 4-1 decision over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

The Spruce Kings have been getting offensive production from the top line of Paul De Jersey, Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone but will need to see some more scoring from the other lines. The defense has also been stepping up and delivering timely goals but as the intensity on the ice heats up, they will have to make sure their end is looked after first and foremost. De Jersey is on a 17 game points streak (11G, 19A). Since coming back with a gold medal at the 2011 WJAC, Khaira has climbed back into the League's Top Ten with 7 goals and 13 assists. Colantone has also worked his way back up the list and currently sits in 12th spot thanks to a big three goal night against the Chilliwack Chiefs (trivia buffs will like to know that this is Michael's second BCHL hat trick, his other one was against the Spruce Kings on December 4, 2010 when he scored three times and also had three asssists).

Since coming to the Spruce Kings, Michael Betz has picked up a pair of goals and added a pair of helpers to his cause, not quite the numbers he was hoping to put up but the contribution is there and his natural ability has been showing through every game. December hasn't been kind to the Fitzgerald triplets either despite their tenacious approach to the game and the scoring chances they have created. The three have combined on only three goals, something they and the coaching staff both know only need a small spark to change.

Through all of that the Spruce Kings have fought hard in every game and have a chance to end December with a record of 6-3-1-0 which is an indication of just how far they have come in a year. This will be the 52nd game the team has played in 2011 and through the good, the bad and the ugly that was 2011 they have a chance to finish on a huge positive and come out of the year with a record of 22-20-3-7 and take a record of 17-13-2-3 this season with them into 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

They're Back!!!

To quote Whitesnake, Here we go again! The BCHL season is back underway after the players were given a break to be with family during the Christmas Holiday's. Now, the second half of the season begins, and every game becomes so much more important than before. The Spruce Kings come into tonight's match up tied for fourth in the Interior Conference, but they have played two more games than Vernon, who have 35 points this season. The team sitting in third place, is the team they will face tonight. A win, and they move within a couple points and continue to stay in the race for the playoffs. A loss, and they'll start to dig themselves into a hole that may become to much to overcome. Still lots of hockey left to be played, but these are games you must win. So let's preview the match up between the Chilling Chiefs and your Prince George Spruce Kings

The Break Down:

These two squads have battle three times this season, with every game being decided by just one goal. The last meeting was just two weeks ago, a game that was won by Prince George 3-2 in overtime. It was the first win this season over the Chiefs, and helped capture some momentum they hope to use in tonight's contest. The first two games were just as close as the third, but it was the Chiefs who got the lucky bounces and skated away with the wins. The games have all been evenly matched, and you can bet that tonight will be no different.

Kirk Thompson got the start in the first two games, but it was the Spruce Kings new goaltender who captured the teams first win over the Chiefs. Ty Swabb made 39 saves on December 16th behind Jujhar Khaira's 3 point effort and Gerry Fitzgerald's Overtime snipe helped lead the team to victory. You can bet they'll need the same type of effort tonight to get their second win in a row over Chilliwack.

The Stats:

After the first half of the season behind us, let's take a look back at who has helped their respective teams get where they are so far.

Paul De Jersey has had a break out season, potting 26 goals with 31 assists, good enough for 4th in league scoring. His line mates Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone currently sit in 13th and 14th respectively as these three are recognized as one of the top lines in the league.

The Chilliwack Chiefs have just one man in the top 20 so far, as Derek Huisman has 18 goals with 39 points. They do however have two other players who currently sit above the 1 point per game average. It should also be noted that the Chiefs have one of the top goaltenders in the league this year statistics wise. Rookie Mitch Gillam sits in 6th for wins, 8th in GAA and 6th in save percentage. Look for Gillam to get the start tonight after the extended break.

Game Time:

The pucks drops tonight at the Prospera Centre at 7:00pm. You can watch the game live with the BCHL webcast here. Don't forget that the Spruce Kings will have their next home game this Friday at 7:00pm as they will take on the Trail Smoke Eaters. Go Spruce Kings

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The West Coast Road Swing Continues Tonight

The Spruce Kings are coming off of a HUGE win last night in Chilliwack as they downed the Chiefs 3-2 in overtime. The win helped the Spruce Kings stay in the close hunt for that 4th and final playoff spot. But they don';t have much time to celebrate, as they have traveled to Langley for a battled with the newly named Rivermen tonight. This will be the first and only meeting between these two clubs this season, so it should be a good one. Let's preview the match up now, between your Spruce Kings and the Rivermen of Langley.

The Breakdown:

The Spruce Kings have had an up and down season when it comes to wins, but compared to last season, it has been a brilliant turn around. With last night's win Chilliwack, Prince George as already tied their point total from last season. It's a stat that will make the players and management happy, but it won't too much to them if they can't find their way back into the post season. Both teams have had a rough going lately, posting identical 4-4-1-1 records through their past ten games. But only the Spruce Kings head to the Langley Events Centre with a win in their back pocket from last night.

As mentioned above, Karan Toor played hero in a 3-2 victory over rival Chilliwack in Overtime. The Rivermen though, were embarrassed at home, losing a 5-0 game to Powell River. Often times you see teams strike back hard after a bad loss, and look for redemption. It becomes the Spruce Kings coaches jobs to come up with a counter attack to halt a push back form the Rivermen.

With these two squads playing in different Conferences, they don't meet very often on the schedule. They played only twice last season, with Langley taking both “W's”. One came in only the second game of the season, at The Castle, a 6-3 decision. The other happen at the Langley Events Centre a few months later, but the result was much more one sided, as the Rivermen downed PG 8-2. This will be the only meeting this season between the two, so it will be interesting to see the game plans drawn up, and what kind of game we will see.

The stat of the day as we get set for the puck drop, The Langley Rivermen have the second fewest goals in the BCHL with just 88. Compare that to the Spruce Kings who have the 6th most. So if the Spruce Kings want to make this a statement game, I'm thinking the key is score early and score often.

To check out full standings and stats before tonight’s game, click here

Game Time:

The Spruce Kings continue their West Coast swing tonight at the Langley Events Centre with the puck dropping at 7:00pm. It'll be their second game in as many nights, with their third being tomorrow being in Surrey at 4pm. Be sure to check out the web cast of tonight's game here

Go Spruce Kings

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Midway Mark with Mike Hawes

Earlier in the week I caught up with the Spruce Kings General Manager to talk about what has been and what will be for the team as they move into the second half of the season. The original interview was interrupted by the news that the League had received a request for supplementary discipline for Trevor Esau on a hit in game number 29 of the season. The hit itself did not result in a penalty call from the game's official but did result in the Spruce Kings, specifically Esau, tying the game up at 3; which was ultimately how the game finished. For comments from Mike Hawes, see the previous post here on the Spruce Kings Crusader.

The conversation then turned to where it was originally intended to go and that was to discuss the first thirty games that are now in the books and to look ahead at the next thirty games in the team's 40th anniversary season. To date this has been one of the team's more successful outings in the BCHL, but as you will hear, there is room for improvement. With a record that places the team tied for the fourth and final playoff position there is a sense that things are looking up for the team. Conversely, a closer look at some recent games reveals an unsettling trend of games being decided by a single goal and most of them not in the Spruce Kings favour.

With the exception of Game 30, a 4-1 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, the Spruce Kings previous seven games were all one goal games with the common theme being a 3-2 decision. In those seven games the Spruce Kings posted a record of 1-4-1-1 and the game against the Silverbacks was the first time Prince George scored more than three goals in a game going back to November 13th. All in all the team still has 31 points in 30 games with a record of 13-12-2-3. This first part of the interview starts with Mike answering the question of whether or not he is happy with a better than .500 record heading into the second half of the season.

download audio file

So with the future looking bright but definitely hanging on the shoulders of the players, we turned our attention to the games that still need to be played in this season. Interestingly enough the Spruce Kings has played their season series against the Merritt Centennials and won't be seeing them anymore. That leaves the Westside Warriors and the Chilliwack Chiefs to make up a larger portion of the remaining games. We talked about that but also talked about the three games that need to be played out before the Christmas break and the fact that Trevor Esau will be missing in the first two of those three this weekend.

Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of the immediate games to be played is that Esau will be sidelined for the two games played in his back yard. On Friday night a large group of family and friends were expected to attend the game in Chilliwack to watch "Easy" play and deliver the hard hits that have been coming with more frequency.

download audio file

On a side note, the Spruce Kings will have two AP'ed defenceman in the lineup Friday night with Latrell Charleson seeing his first action with the Spruce Kings and Karan Toor getting into the lineup for a tenth time. Charleson is with the Valley West Hawks of the BC Major Midget League and was signed to an AP card earlier this week. At 16 years of age, Charleson is grabbing the attention of scouts and not just for his impressive size - he stands 6'4" and is 220lbs and can pack a wallop. Toor is expected to be in the lineup for all three games; he has been showing an ability to play on the backend that the coaching staff appreciates, hence the extra callups.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Esau Suspended Two Games

With the Spruce Kings just passing the midway mark of the season with 30 games done and 30 games to go, I thought I would catch up with the General Manager and get his thoughts on the team. My interview was set back a little bit as Mike Hawes was dealing with the League and their ruling that a Trevor Esau hit on Saturday night December 10th in Westside warranted a two game suspension. The hit in question was not penalized on the ice and led to a turnover and Esau scoring the game tying goal against the Warriors.

As part of the mid-season interview, I asked Mike about his take on the hit and subsequent suspension. What follows is that portion of the interview and then the video of the hit as posted on You Tube.

download audio file

There you have the video and the comments of the Warriors broadcaster, Jon Zacks along with the thoughts of Spruce Kings General Manager, Mike Hawes. I'm sure you have your thoughts, I know I do, and I encourage you to use the comment section below to share them.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Game Two of Three in a Row

The Spruce Kings are starting a three week road swing tonight, and they are doing so in Westside. These two teams battled last weekend in a back to back series at the Castle. Each team came away with a “W”, but the Warriors still hold the lead in the season series 2-1. The Spruce Kings will play their second game in as many nights, and will also have to remember they'll have an even quicker turn around tomorrow afternoon. But let's focus on the game at hand and preview what is another important match up with an Interior Conference rival. It's the Westside Warriors hosting your Prince George Spruce Kings:

The Set Up:

As mentioned, these two have battle three times this season, two of them being last weekend, and one being back in October. That game back near the start of the season happened in Westside as the Warriors skated to a 6-2 victory over the Spruce Kings. Marcus Beesley got the start in goal, as Paul De Jersey and Leo Fitzgerald were the only goal scorers for Prince George. The Warriors powered their victory off of 2 goals scored in each of the three periods. Tyler Krause scored a couple as did Richard Vanderhoek, and that was enough to send Prince George home wondering what happened. Last weekends set of games saw each team win by just a goal. Both games were physical and close, and I’d expect more of the same tonight.

The Spruce Kings need to start stringing wins together here in December as teams like Merritt and Chilliwack are pulling away form the pack and making the battle for fourth place a close one. Vernon currently sits in fourth place with 31 points. Prince George sits in 5th with 28 points while Salmon Arm and Westside are in 6th and 7th with 25 points. The Spruce Kings have been on the wrong side of too many 1 goal losses, and soon, it's going to come back to haunt them. A win tonight, and they'll continue to keep Westside in the bottom of the pack while bringing themselves closer to catching Vernon

Last Night:

Both teams played last night, both being homes games. As you know, the Spruce Kings dropped a 4-3 decision to the Centennials. Ty Swabb got the start in net again, making 24 saves for his first loss. It's not known if he will be getting the start tonight or not. Westside was able to control the Vernon Vipers throughout their contest, and sent them home after beating them 5-2. Connor Dempsey scored twice to receive first star honors as Dwayne Rodrigue picked up the win. Chances are, Rodrigue will see action once again tonight against Prince George

Game Time:

The puck will drop at Royal Lepage place at 7pm tonight. To watch the web cast of tonight's contest, click here

Friday, December 9, 2011

Another Battle With The Centennials

Prince George is getting set to host the Centennials yet again tonight. It is quickly becoming the Spruce Kings biggest in division rivalry, thanks in large part due to the fact that these two have already squared off six times this season. The two squads have each won three games, but tonight, one team will look to grab hold of the lead in the season series. The games have all been competitive and fast paced, and we really shouldn’t expect anything less tonight. So let’s preview the seventh game between the Merritt Centennials and your Prince George Spruce Kings:

The Break Down:

These two squads know each other quite well, having played multiple times this season. They started off their seasons against one another in a back to back weekend at the Coliseum. The Spruce Kings won both of those games, but only were able to take one out of the next four match ups. The most recent time fans have been able to see these two play, was the BCHL celebration weekend, where the Centennials beat PG at home, then took them out in Overtime in their own home barn. It was a couple of games that showcased the physical dislike these two teams have for one another. IN the new BCHL, with the new playoff format, every night and every point becomes that much more important. Only four teams will play more than 60 games, and right now only Merritt would make it if the season ended today. Divisional games have never been more important than they are this year, and with the series tied at three games a piece, you can bet that both coaches have prepped their boys for an all out war tonight.

Although Prince George hasn’t faired as well against Merritt as they did at start of the season, they do have one big thing on their side tonight, their fans! The Spruce Kings are tied for the second most home wins in the BCHL. Home ice advantage is always nice, and the boys have definitely benefited from having the Prince George faithfully chant their names this season. On the other side Merritt has battled this season on the road, and they come into the Castle sporting a 6-6 -2-1 record. Though it should be added again, the last time these two battled in Prince George, Merritt was able to skate away with the “W”.

Who’s Hot:

The Spruce Kings top line of Jujhar Khaira, Paul De Jersey and Michael Colantone continues to impress and put up points. Shutting these three down becomes essential for any team that plays Prince George. The Spruce Kings two newest players come into tonight’s contest having impressed last weekend. Michael Betz scored his first as a King, and had a stellar night on the ice. Ty Swabb also recorded his first win as a Spruce Kings last Sunday, and will likely look to carry that momentum into tonight.

Also earlier this week a couple of Centennials and Spruce King players made the NHL draft watch list. Prince George forward Jujhar Khaira and Merritt defenseman Reece Wilcox made the list along with six other BCHLers. A big congrats goes to all the boys as they look to be drafted this season

Game Time:

Tonight’s match up will have the usual start time of 7pm at the Coliseum. It’s also the “Drop your gloves and sock it to em” night at the Castle. Bring some new gloves, socks, toques etc in a bag, and when the Spruce kings score their first goal, toss the bags onto the ice. Hope to see you at the rink, go Spruce Kings

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Another One Goal Loss...

Westside came into the Castle having lost nine of their past 10. The Spruce Kings came in having lost their past three. After it was all said and done, Westside would skate away with the Win. The Warriors had an abysmal November, losing eight of nine. They started off December with a loss, but tonight, they were not going to lay down and die. The Spruce Kings didn't have as long of a losing streak, but losing three games in a row by 1 goal, isn't fun. It's a streak that continued tonight, as they dropped a 3-2 decision to Westside. It was a very entertaining game, but only one team skated away smiling.

The Break Down:

The first started off as most do, back and forth puck movement, a few chances, but no real scoring opportunities. But at the 8:48 mark, the Spruce Kings top line struck again, as Michael Colantone fired a wrister top corner on Dwayne Rodrigue to open the scoring. Ben Woodley and Paul De Jersey add the assists on the goal. The Warriors didn’t take long to tie the game up, as they took advantage off a miscue by the Spruce Kings defender and tied the game up. Brett Mckinnon was left alone out front, took a feed and one timed it past Kirk Thompson. That's where things left off heading into the intermission.

The second period would prove to be the eventual difference maker as the Warriors would score 2 goals just over a minute apart. Max French would start it off by sending a puck on net from the top of the right circle that fooled Thompson. The Prince George net minder reached out for it, and just plain missed it. Then 1:04 later, Richard Vanderhoek took a pass on a two on one and scored on a wide open net. It was a quick turn around for the Warriors of Westside, and it would prove to be too much to over come

The Spruce Kings would apply a ton of pressure in the third, thanks in large part to the a five minute power play handed to them after Garrett Skrbich was sent to the showers early for charging Kirk Thompson. Thompson would lay on the ice for a moment, before getting up under his own power to stay in the game. Jujhar Khaira would make them pay quickly, just 8 seconds into the major, he fired a shot from the top of the right circle that found it's way past Rodrigue. It was a quick strike, that gave hope to the Prince George faithful going forward with seven minutes to go. One of the turning points in the game would come during the five minute power play, when the Spruce Kings were called for too many men on the ice. It still left them with time to work with, but it essentially killed off the momentum that they had just gained.

The Spruce Kings would press, but Rodrigue held down the fort, and helped his team skate to a 3-2 victory. Rodrigue made 22 saves in the game, taking home the “W”. Thompson would be given the loss, as he made 25 saves in defeat.

The game was a very good one, but ultimately it ends up being yet another 1 goal loss for the Spruce Kings. This was Prince George's fourth 1 goal game in a row that they end up on the wrong side of. It's a tough pill to swallow, and one that leaves Coach Dave Dumas and his squad wondering what they have to do to end up on the right side of things. There were a couple of different turning points for me in tonight’s contest. One came in the second period, during Prince George's first power play. Jujhar Khaira made a backdoor feed to Paul De Jersey who had a good amount of net to look at. Rodrigue though was not wiling to let up easy, as he slip across his crease and made a split leg toe save. It was a save that may not have been noticed by many, but at the time, it kept the game all tied up. The other turning point for me came during the Max French 2-1 goal. It was a shot that Thompson should have saved, and one he would make if given another try. But unfortunately, these things happen, he missed the puck and gave all the momentum to Westside going forward.

To read the full box score and get a recap in scoring from tonight, click here

The Three Stars:

3)(WW) Richard Vanderhoek – 1 Goal, GWG

2)(PG) Gerry Fitzgerald

1)(WW) Max French – 1 Goal

Next Up:

These two teams will battle once again at the Coliseum tomorrow afternoon. This game becomes eve bigger for the Spruce Kings, as they hope to re-establish their 6 point lead on the Warriors in the standings. Tonight’s game was a good one, so be sure not to miss the rematch tomorrow as the puck drops at 3pm

The Spruce Kings Entertain the Warriors of Westside

The Spruce Kings will look to get back into the win column as they host the Westside Warriors tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Prince George enters tonight's contest having dropped their last three games, all to division rivals. All three have been decided by just a goal, but you can bet that that isn't a good consolation prize for the Spruce Kings players and coaches. Tonight will feature the first time the Westside Warriors have been in Prince George since the pre season. It's a big 4 points for both teams, so let's preview the match up to see who has the upper hand on paper:

The Breakdown:

The Westide Warriors came out of the gates flying to start the season, winning their first five games. But November was a much more cruel beast to the Warriors of Westside. They only managed to win one game in November, while losing eight. December hasn't started out any better for the Warriors, as they dropped a 7-2 decision to the Penticton Vees last night. There is a big upside for the Warriors though, as they have a few high flying players returning to the line up for them in Max French and Brennan Clark. Plus with the addition of former Vernon Viper Marcus Barasa, the Warriors are poised to return to the win column, and should not be looked at as a team that comes in having lost nine of their past ten. As we know all to well, momentum is everything in hockey, and if the Spruce Kings let Westisde run out of here with 4 points, it could wake up a very dangerous beast.

As mentioned, the Spruce Kings have lost three in a row heading into tonight. The losing streak did come off the back end of a four game winning streak, but in the competitive Interior Conference and with the new playoff format, losing three games to division rivals just can't happen. The Spruce Kings would love to be able to help put the Warriors deeper in the standings this weekend. The two teams are separated by 6 points, meaning if Westside can come away with 2 wins this weekend, it will go a long way in helping them vault back into the 4th playoff spot. But, on the other side of things, If Prince George can take down the Warriors on both Saturday and Sunday, it would go a long way in helping push Westside even further beneath them.

This Season:

These two teams have met just once this year in the regular season, a 6-2 win for Westside at home. They still have 6 meetings this season to decide who is the better of the two, with three of them happening in December. It should be noted that they did also meet in pre season action back in September, Westside won that contest as well, 3-1.

New Faces:

The Spruce Kings have added a few new faces to their roster this week. Former AJHL goaltender Ty Swabb was picked up by the team via trade that saw Stefan Bazar head to the St. Albert Steel. Also coming to the Spruce Kings organization, the hulking forward Michael Betz. Betz is a 6'2 forward who has spent time in the BCHL with the Trail Smoke Eaters and the Penticton Vees. Unfortunately while adding players, Prince George had to let a few move on to make some room for the new guys. As it has been stated, the organization and it's fans would like to thank Spencer and Scott Mchaffie, Stefan Bazar and Marcus Beesley who all were reassigned or traded this past week.

Game Time:

The puck will drop on tonight's contest at 7pm at the Castle. Then tomorrow, these two teams will go at it again, this time with an afternoon start of 3pm. Both games will be broadcast on the live web cast here. You can also listen to the FREE audio broadcast of the games here

Go Spruce Kings

Thursday, December 1, 2011

An Unfortunate End Halts An Entertaining Game

Tonight, Prince George got to witness a great hockey game. Unfortunately, they also got to witness a weird ending that slowed the game right down. All night these two teams battled back and forth, exchanging chances and hits. It was a match up of two very evenly ranked teams, and it looked like we would need an extra frame to decide things. As it turned out, we wouldn't end up seeing overtime, but we would see the game end in controversy. With that in mind, let's recap tonight's 3-2 loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs.

The Breakdown:

The first period started out with a bang for the Chiefs, as their leading scorer David Bondra intercepted a pass, moved in and fired a shot pasta slightly screened Kirk Thompson. The goal came at 3:13 mark, and quickly showed that the Chiefs had no bus rust from he trip to Prince George. The Spruce Kings were not prepared to lay down that earlier though, as Michael Colantone took a nice pass from Jujhar Khaira, and scored on a brief breakaway attempt at the 7:19 mark. Prince George would follow that up with a power play goal from Tyson Witala at the 16:20 mark. They would take that 2-1 lead into the break.

The first half of the second period was all Prince George, as they were firing all sorts of shots on Mitch Gillam. Prince George would get a few more power play opportunities, but couldn't put another puck past the Chiefs goaltender. Chilliwack would reward there goaltenders fine play with a tally, as David Thompson got a lucky bounce off of Ben Woodley's leg and tied the game up at 2. Derek Huisman would get the only assist on the play as Chilliwack snatched back the momentum that Prince George was seeming to carry into the intermission with. The Spruce Kings had all sorts of chances, but not burying them in the second would prove to be a huge difference maker.

The third period was more of the same from these two talented squads. Back and forth action, big hits, and nice scoring chances. The eventual game winner came at the 11:40 mark as Trevor Hills threw a puck on net from the corner, and ended up beating Thompson. The goal didn't come without some controversy though, as Thompson appeared to have it squeezed against the post, the referring looked as though he was going to signal it dead, then the goal light came on. The Spruce Kings argued the call, but it was to no avail as the tally would count. The game would end with that score, but not before some more controversy and rough stuff over flowed onto the ice.

As time was winding down Paul De Jersey seemed to be jumped behind the play by David Thompson. Thompson stood over a turtled De Jersey and tried to pound on him before the ref jumped in. Colantone ended up without his gloves on after the brief scrum, both teams exchanged words, and then it was up to the referees to decide what would happen next. As it turned out, they decided to give most roughing minors, and tossed Ben Woodley for unsportsmanlike conduct. So with just 14 seconds left, the Spruce Kings were forced deep into their own zone, making it too much to over come. It was a weird scenario considering De Jersey was the one who was being held down and punched. The newly crowned Captain Ben Matthews didn't let the game end without sticking up for his teammates. He would dropped the gloves with Shay Laurent, dropping him in the process with a right to the nose, essentially giving his team a small piece of gratification to go home with. Gillam would get the win, making 33 saves in the 3-2 victory for the Chiefs.

It was an unfortunate end to what was a great hockey game. Prince George had their chances to win, but ultimately couldn't solve Gillam after the first period.

To read the full box score and recap of tonight's game, click here

The Three Stars:

3)(PG) Tyson Witala – 1 Goal
2)(CHW)David Bondra -1 Goal, 1 Assist
1)(CHW)Mitch Gillam – 33 Saves

Next Up:

The Spruce Kings will head into the weekend having lost 3 in a row. They will have another chance though to set the tone going forward as they host the Westside Warriors on Saturday and Sunday
Saturday the puck drops at 7pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Once again, both games will take place at the Castle.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Sense of Familiarity

Perhaps it is an old story now and something best left in the past, but for Spruce Kings fans there will be a sense of familiarity for a team playing its first visit to the Coliseum. The Chilliwack Chiefs make their debut in new threads in the Castle on Wednesday night, but behind that chief head dress logo will be a few players that know the what its like to play the role of visitor and even one that knows what its like to play in front of the home town fans.

Tyler Miller was one of the few players that went with Head Coach and General Manager Harvey Smyl from the Langley to Chilliwack. Miller is a Prince George resident in the off-season and, for a quarter of the 2009-10 season, wore the crown while patrolling the blue line for the Spruce Kings. Now in his final year of junior eligibility, Miller wears the 'C' and will be looking to punish members of the 40th edition of the Prince George Spruce Kings. Kit Sitterley, Josh Hansen and Jeremy Gossard are three other former Langley Chiefs that made the move from Langley to Chilliwack.

Malcolm Gould, Derek Huisman, Spencer Grabowski, David Thompson, Michael Spring, Matthew Hutchinson and Bryton Udy all have experience playing against the Spruce Kings as members of the Quesnel Millionaires last season. This season the group of seven are enjoying life in the Fraser Valley. Huisman and Gould play on the top line along with David Bondra where the three sit atop team scoring with a combined production of 74 points (31 goals and 43 assists). Grabowski and Spring find themselves a little lower on the depth chart while Thompson and Hutchinson make up one pairing on the blue line and Udy backs up Mitch Gillam between the pipes.

The Chilliwack Chiefs are playing out of the Interior Conference this season as a result of their off season move from Quesnel to Chilliwack, but the League has indicated that there will be a realignment coming in the off season that will address this anomaly. Through 22 games thus far, the Chiefs sit just one point back of the Prince George Spruce Kings with 25 points (12-9-0-1). Coming off back-to-back losses to the Penticton Vees during the League's Celebration Weekend, the Chiefs will be looking to get back in the win column against the Spruce Kings.

Earlier in the month these two teams met at Prospera Place in Chilliwack in a game that went to double overtime and was decided on a penalty shot after a penalty call against Prince George in that second overtime period. The Spruce Kings remember that game well and believe that they had played well enough to win in regulation time but ran into penalty troubles throughout the contest. That is a bit of a sore point for the Spruce Kings this season who have a respectable penalty kill (80.15%) but find themselves sitting in the sin bin a little too often for their own good. When skating with the man-advantage the Spruce Kings powerplay proficiency has lacked the ability to put away their opponents and has been sputtering at the bottom of the League at 14.29%.

Offense shouldn't be a problem for the Spruce Kings who have their top line sitting among the League scoring leaders. Paul De Jersey leads the way with 23 goals and 22 assists good for 3rd in the League, Michael Colantone shares a spot with three others in the top ten with 11 goals and 23 assists. Jujhar Khaira missed eight games while he was away winning a gold medal with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge but is still in the top twenty with 13 goals and 18 assists. The trio have been clicking since Khaira came back and will be looking to get the job done again tonight against the Chilliwack Chiefs.

Defensively the two teams are almost identical allowing just under 3.60 goals against on average per game. Kirk Thompson has been coming on as of late and has earned a star in each of the Spruce Kings past three games and was arguably one the best players on the ice turning aside 42 of the 46 shots he faced. Thompson is expected to get the start for Prince George while Mitch Gillam is expected to start for the visitors at the other end of the ice. Gillam has slightly better numbers in his fifteen games with a 3.02 GAA and 90.50 save percentage.

This midweek game was incorrectly listed on the pocket schedule as being a road game for the Spruce Kings; it is very much a home game with the puck set to hit the ice at 7pm at the Prince George Coliseum. If you are unable to attend the game in person, you can still catch the action on the BCHL Pay-per-View feed or the free audio only feed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Centennials Take Down Prince George In a Rough One

Round 1 goes to the Centennials! It was the first of a home and home series, and the Centennials were the better team tonight. They were able to capitalize on key mistakes, as all three goals came from break downs int heir own end. Kirk Thompson played a great hockey game, stopping 28 shots, many of which were stellar saves, but his team couldn't add enough insurance to capture the win at home. Round 2 goes tomorrow night, but let's recap tonight’s match up between the Merritt Centennials and your Prince George Spruce Kings:

The Break Down:

The first period started out well for the Spruce Kings, and through the first ten minutes, they controlled the action. But the Centennials were able to turn things around after that, and grab hold of the momentum. Merritt would make good on their second power play of the game, which turned out to be the second half of a four minute penalty to Trevor Esau, as Silvan Harper put home a wrap around attempt. It didn't take to much longer for the Centennials to add to their lead, as Harper potted his second of the evening, a one timer out front, at 16:29 of the first. The period would end this way, But not before Paul De Jersey and Peyton Schaefer would drop the mits. Although the fight ended with both men crashing to the ice before landing a punch, the scrap seemed to pump up both squads

The big play to remember from the second period, was an elbow that lead to the games first ejection. Myles Fitzgerald hit his man with what the referee called an elbow to the head. The call lead to Myles getting the gate early, and leaving his team with the task of killing a 5 minute major. Kirk Thompson made multiple incredible saves to help his team eventual kill off the major, leaving many to believe that this could be a potential turning point. The Spruce Kings forwards rewarded their goaltenders play with a goal 4 minutes afterwards as Paul De Jersey ripped home his 22nd of the season. Ben Woodley and Michael Colantone added the helpers on the Spruce Kings first tally. It was a 2-1 hockey game in favour of Merritt heading into the third, and momentum was starting to tilt in favour of Prince George.

Although the Spruce Kings had lots of good things to work off of starting the third, it as Merritt who once again capitalized on another Prince George mistake behind their own net. Reece Wilcox found puck that squirted out of a pack, and wrap one past the sprawling Thompson. The goal would be the eventual game winner for the Centennials. Chase Golightly would make things interesting late, firing one home form the point, but it became to much to over come for the Spruce Kings. The end of the game saw things start to turn ugly as Ben Woodley and Jakob Reichert fought, as did both teams coaching staffs. Emotions boiled over on ice, leading to a few more shoving matches, and setting the stage for an intense rematch tomorrow night. Tyler Steel received the win tonight, making 26 saves

It should also be noted just how short handed the Spruce Kings became as the game went on. Prince George started the game with just 11 starting forwards as Sean Landrey and Michael Klonarakis sat with injuries. Myles FItzgerald was the next to go, getting ejected for an elbow to the head. Stefan Bazar then left the game with an undisclosed injury, with Ben Woodley getting the gate for a fighting major late in the game. When it was all sad and done, with 8 minutes to play, the Spruce Kings had 9 forwards and 5 defenseman on the bench.

To get a check out the full recap and box score of tonight's match up, click here

The Three Stars:

3) (PG) Gerry Fitzgerald

2) (MER) Silvan Harper – 2 Goals

1) (PG) Kirk Thompson – 28 Saves

The Next Game:

These two teams will do it again tomorrow night in Merritt. This is exactly what the BCHL had in mind when they scheduled this BCHL 50th anniversary celebration weekend. It was a great game tonight between division rivals, and one that neither team wanted to lose. The emotions ran high, and boiled over on the ice and on the benches. The stage for tomorrow's game has been set, and this one is going to be a rough hard fought battle. Be sure to not miss this one tomorrow night in Merritt. The puck will drop at 7:30 and you can watch the web cast here

Spruce Kings and Cents Meet Again

It is the BCHL's 5oth Anniversary Celebration weekend, and with it comes your chance to relive the history of this great league. The celebration weekend also brings us a fantastic match up division rivals, and they are games that will mean big things in the standings. These two squads have met a few times this season, and every game has been a good one. The Spruce Kings are riding a nice four game winning streak into tonight's match up, so let's preview the game to see their chances of making it 5. It's the Merritt Centennials taking on your Prince George Spruce Kings:

The Set Up:

As mentioned, these two teams are very familiar with one another this season, having met four times already. The Spruce Kings have gotten the better of things early, but their last game took until double overtime to find a winner. Before that game last week, it was Merritt who was finally able to figure out Prince George, topping them 7-4 in their own barn.

The last time we were able to see Merritt live in action was way back during the opening weekend of the season. Prince George won both of those games, but Merritt is a much different team since those games. Merritt has since gone on a run that has them currently sitting in second place in the interior conference. They are 6-1-0-3 in their past ten, having lost their past 2, with one of those coming at the hands of Westside in overtime on Wednesday.

The Spruce Kings are currently riding a four game win streak, with one of those wins coming against the Centennials. The Spruce Kings continue to house one of the top lines in the league with Khaira, De Jersey and Colantone. These three, along with a hulking blue line and some stellar goal tending performances have helped Prince George step into a tie for fourth, but they also sit just 3 points out of second place. A couple of wins in this weekends match up will go a long way to helping this team get back to the post season.

Who's Hot:

Paul De Jersey continues to be a factor for the Spruce Kings, sitting in 4th for league scoring and 2nd in the goals scored category. The trio that has really come into their own over the past few games has been the line of Tyson Witala, Stefan Bazar and Jeff Earnest. These three have combined for goals in the past three games. Look for them to be factors once again come game time tonight and Saturday.

Merritt as a whole have been hot as of late, but Regan Soquila has lead the charge for the Cents all season. Soquila has 29 points this season, good for 19th in league scoring.

Game Time:

Once again, this weekend is the BCHL’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Head down to the Coliseum tonight for your chance to win prizes and relive the rich history of the BCHL. The puck drops tonight at 7pm and then tomorrow in Merritt at 7:30pm. Tonight’s game will be broadcast a few different ways as usual. You can catch the web cast here and the FREE audio broadcast here.

Hope to see you at the rink

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dustin's View of the Weekend Double Header

With a poise and delivery that could easily be considered that of seasoned broadcaster, Dustin Scafe came in from Fort St. John to put on the headset and provide the play-by-play of both games in this past weekend's double header. Scafe is working in Fort St. John at Moose FM and like so many other young broadcaster was very excited when given the opportunity to call the games from the Spruce Kings press box. Working with Todd Doherty, Scafe was well prepared and possessed accurate and indepth knowledge of players on both sides of the puck. After the games he provided his take for the blog, here is his post for Sunday's 3-0 Spruce Kings shutout victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

For the second time in as many nights, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks were victims of the Prince George Spruce Kings quick and vicious attack. During Saturday’s meeting between the two teams, the Spruce Kings scored goals inside of the 5 minute mark to take a 2 goal lead over the ‘Backs, and Sunday afternoon was no different as Myles Fitzgerald put the Spruce Kings up 2 goals at 3:13 of the second period with a beauty power play goal that beat Salmon Arm net minder Adam Clark with a cross crease pass. Tyson Witala sealed the deal with 16:35 remaining in the third period, with the assists going to Stefan Bazar and Ben Woodley; who had two A’s in the victory. Bazar also continued his hot play since coming over from Canmore, racking up his 10th point in just 5 games.

Opening the scoring in the first period on the power play, Ben Matthews had a goal and an assist in his better game of the home-at-home series. The goal came midway through the opening frame after Brett Knowles took an undisciplined slashing penalty. In fact, undisciplined is a good word to define the play of the Silverbacks in this game, as late in the game Ben Woodley would be forced to drop the mitts with a frustrated Knowles. Jeff Kennedy also got in to the party after Jeff Earnest and he collided in front of the net, Kennedy then proceeded to antagonize Earnest before picking up the lone penalty in the mix of things, a cross checking call. During that same stoppage, Salmon Arm coach Colin O’Hara seemed to be having some unpleasant words with the officials, resulting in his ejection from the contest.

Overall, it was a fans game. The pace was very quick, the emotions were running high, the goaltenders were hot and best of all, the home team finished with a shutout - thanks in no small part to Kirk Thompson. The 19 year old made 31 saves for his first career BCHL shutout, something I am shocked to be saying. This goaltender has the potential to lead the Kings deep in the Fred Page Cup playoffs this season. In a losing effort, Adam Clark made 38 saves in his best performance of his fresh BCHL career, Clark made several big stops and did everything in his power to keep his team in it.

As far as players who made an impression go, Connor Fynn, an AP call up from the Sicamous Eagles, came in to the Silverbacks lineup for the first time on Saturday and played one or two shifts the entire evening, but Sunday afternoon would prove to be his big chance. Fynn played each of his shifts at 200% and it resulted in his team gaining momentum from his play. He forced Thompson out of his net and he proved that even with a small body, he is capable of ripping a big league shot. The Spruce King that impressed me the most, other than the obvious Kirk Thompson, would easily be Chase Golightly. Here’s a 19 year old sophomore in the league, leading his time on the back end. The Kings have so much depth at the point, that Chase could be playing 3rd unit and still be considered a top 2 d-man on several BCHL squads. He moves the puck with such ease and has the speed to go end to end, which he did several times on Sunday afternoon.

I would like to extend a thank you to the Prince George Spruce Kings for this opportunity to step in as the play by play broadcaster for the weekend. I have never had so much fun calling a game, and I owe it to the organization for making it all happen. I hope to do it again in the near future, and I look forward to continuing chats with everyone I talked with at the Castle over the weekend. I also want to send out a personal thanks to Ron Gallo, Matt Anthony and Todd Doherty for going out of their ways to accommodate me. These things never go unnoticed and they are greatly appreciated. Also thanks to Scott Campbell, the voice of the Silverbacks, as we had some nice discussions and I feel he helped me to better my broadcast.

My name is Dustin Scafe and I hope to see you at the rink again soon!

As I mention, this young man did a very good job providing the play-by-play and recaps of both games. Thank you Dustin from everyone with the Spruce Kings. We all hope there another opportunity to get your voice on our broadcast.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spruce Kings Post 'W' in First Half of Double Header

With the civic election on this night, Matt Anthony was unavailable for the broadcast but an eager replacement found himself in Prince George and looking for the opportunity to fill in. A big thank you has to go out to Dustin Scafe, who works in Fort St. John for Moose FM. Scafe made himself available for this weekend's double header between the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the Prince George Spruce Kings. I must say, the youngster did a great job ... he was well prepared, provided insightful comments and delivered a very polished call of the game. To top it all off, he even provided a recap of the game and a preview of Sunday's matinee repeat between these same two teams.

The Prince George Spruce Kings came out quickly Saturday night against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks with Paul De Jersey netting his league leading 21st goal of the season just 3 minutes into the opening frame on route to a 3-2 victory over the 'Backs. It was one of those games where both teams went nose to the grindstone, and there was no shortage of board battles and traffic in front of the net. Tyson Witala scored the winner 7 minutes in to the third period after Salmon Arm net minder Kurt Williams struggled to contain the puck in his pads following a Spruce Kings point shot. Witala also picked up an assist on Jeff Earnest's first of the season, which put the Spruce Kings up 2-0 just 1:33 in to the 2nd period.

Brett Knowles made the game interesting with a short handed goal midway through the 2nd after he left the Spruce Kings defenders in his dust with a fancy toe drag. Half a minute before the goal, Brendan Kennedy was caught with a kneeing penalty on Jujhar Khaira, the Canada West gold medalist caught the short end of an awkward hit but was none the worse for the hit. Shane Hanna would tie the game with the Silverbacks enjoying a two man advantage late in the second period. Hanna's hard shot beat Kirk Thompson down low to giving Salmon Arm momentum to start the third. Several stellar saves by Thompson would give the Spruce Kings their confidence back in the third. A strong performer tonight for the Silverbacks was #9 Morgan Zulinick, the 17 year old Kamloops native picked up 2 assists, tying his point total from 2010-2011.

Kurt Williams made 25 saves for the Apes, who dressed a short bench for the second straight night. Last night against Penticton, Colin O'Hara dressed 15 players, while tonight, a 16th body was added as AP Connor Fynn made his BCHL debut. The Spruce Kings, meanwhile, dressed a full roster for just the second time this season after injuries plagued them early on in the year.

Following the game, two Spruce Kings were named the games top 2 stars, with Morgan Zulinick of Salmon Arm being named the games third star. Leo Fitzgerald, who played a very strong game using his speed and small frame to his advantage, picked up second star, while new comer Stefan Bazar picked up the game's first star honor with his exceptional performance, which included his 7th assist, giving him 9 points in just 4 games since coming to the Kings from the Canmore Eagles of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He had 15 points in his first 16 games with the Eagles. Perhaps left out of the three star selections was Spruce Kings goaltender, Kirk Thompson who had to be sharp this night. On more than one occasion the nineteen year old robbed the Silverbacks of a sure goal with a quick leg save or glove that came from out of nowhere.

Both teams battled hard in the offensive zone, but misplayed neutral zone passes caused several turnovers, two of which led to goals. Prince George went 0 for 5 on the man advantage, while special teams played a big role for Salmon Arm, as they scored a short handed goal, and went 1 for 8 on the power play. The 'Backs currently sit 4th in BCHL power plays on the road and will look to improve on that stat Sunday afternoon. Puck drop will be at 3pm in the Prince George Coliseum and you can watch the pay-per-view feed live on BCHL website or listen for free online from the Spruce Kings Ustream channel with Dustin Scafe and Todd Doherty.

With the win on Saturday night, the Spruce Kings improve to 10-8-1-2 but continue to be 2 points back of Chilliwack for the 4th and final playoff spot in the Interior Conference. The Silverbacks continue to struggle near the bottom and now have a 6-11-0-5 record, good for 17 points. A win for the Spruce Kings tomorrow would move them in to a tie with Chilliwack, while a win for Salmon Arm would pull them in to 6th, leaving them 4 points back of the Spruce Kings ... a big game for both teams on Sunday afternoon.

Again, a great job by Dustin Scafe on everything he has done to contribute to his first BCHL game and now for his game two and the second half of the double header between the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Spruce Kings. We hope you can make it to the rink for the 3pm faceoff. Along with the exciting action that has become the norm for the Spruce Kings will be the first installment of this season's Elementary School Cheeroff with Cedar's Christian School, Glenview Elementary and Sacred Heart School all vying for a chance to win a day with the Spruce Kings at their school. Good luck to all and enjoy the game.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another Big Weekend Series

It's another big set of divisional games this weekend as the Spruce Kings will look to build off of their win in Merritt. Last year Prince George was only able to defeat the Silverbacks once, but it was inside the Castle. This will be the first time this season Prince George will host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. These two squads are not separated by much in the standings, combine that with the new playoff format and that makes this weekend's games a can't miss experience. With that in mind let's preview the match up between the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and your Prince George Spruce Kings.

The Set Up:

These two Interior Division rivals have met just once this season, in Salmon Arm, and it was a game that was dominated by the Spruce Kings. Paul De Jersey, Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone were in on 4 of the 6 goals and combined for 9 points. The Silverbacks are coming into this weekend's contest on a high note, having won 3 of their past 4. The Spruce Kings will also ride a nice wave of momentum into Saturday's first game of the double header after posting a double overtime 3-2 win in Merritt on Thursday. Kirk Thompson was stellar in the win, stopping 39 pucks on route to victory. The Silverbacks suffered a disappointing loss last night to the Penticton Vees and then had to board the bus for the two game set in Prince George.

Who’s Hot:

The Spruce Kings continue to get superb play from their new forward and former Silverback, Paul De Jersey. De Jersey sits just one point back in the league scoring race and still leads the BCHL in goals scored with 20. Jujhar Khaira is another Spruce King who comes in on a hot streak, but for a few different reasons. Khaira returned to Prince George with gold around his neck having helped Canada West win it all at the World Junior A Challenge. Khaira also scored a goal in his first game back since the tournament.

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have 3 different players who sit above the 20 point threshold this season, but it's their Switzerland product who leads the charge. Devin Muller has 26 points this season through 18 games. Brett Knowles and Morgan Zulinick round out the Silverback top three in scoring with 25 and 24 points each.

Bumps and Bruises:

The Spruce Kings were able to ice a full roster for the first time since the start of the season on Thursday; only Sean Landrey sits on the shelf. The Spruce Kings will once again be able to ice a full line up tonight. As Prince George gets healthy, the same can't be said for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks who currently list five players out with an injury.

Game Time:

The puck will drop in the Castle tonight at 7pm and then tomorrow afternoon at 3pm. You can catch the web cast on the BCHL website here. Or you can listen to the FREE audio broadcast here

Go Spruce Kings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feels Like The First Time

Another Thursday trip to Merritt for a one and done game with the Centennials. With the relocation of the Quesnel Millionaires to Chilliwack this season, the Spruce Kings knew before the schedule was drafted that there would be some tough road trips to deal with. Tonight's game in Merritt is the second time in as many weeks that the Spruce Kings have to travel 6 hours south for a single game and then return home for their next opponent. It's something that does leave the team a little perplexed, but something that they know they will deal with and expect different results this time around.

Last week when the Spruce Kings boarded the bus and headed down to the Nicola Valley Arena for their third game of the season against the Merritt Centennials they were left licking their wounds all the way back after suffering a 7-4 loss. That loss seemed to inspire the team who recorded a 5-2 victory over the Victoria Grizzlies. That win along with the return of some previously missing players has injected a new level of confidence for their second appearance in Merritt.

Through the first 19 games of the season the Spruce Kings had to enlist the assistance of affiliate players (AP's) in their line up to fill the holes created by injuries and absences for players skating for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge. In all the Spruce Kings saw a total of 35 slots filled by APs over the course of those 19 games with a total of four APs appearing at a time in five games.

Tonight's game will see a full roster of players in the game with Jujhar Khaira playing in his first game back after winning gold with Team Canada West. Jeff Earnest is also back after dealing with an upper body injury that has kept him out of the lineup since just after the season's opening weekend series against these same Merritt Centennials. But the team is not 100% healthy with some players dealing with minor issues and Sean Landrey still sidelined with his lower body injury.

I mentioned "these same Merritt Centennials" and they really are the same team they were at the beginning of the season ... at least in personnel, but in the game they seem to be so much different. After suffering an opening night 6-3 loss to the Spruce Kings, the Centennials have responded with two victories (4-3 on September 24 and 7-4 November 11) against Prince George. In their last twelve games, Merritt has picked up points in 11 of those games (10-1-0-2) and have an overall record of 10-5-1-3, good for third in the Interior Division.

There is only one Merritt Centennial in the top twenty among the League's scoring leaders and nobody on the team has reached double digits for goals scored yet. In fact the Centennials are only sixth best in the Interior Division for average goals scored in a game with 3.32 ... so where does their success come from? Regan Soguila is their leading points getter with 6 goals and 19 assists, 10 points better than Chad Brears who has the team's lead in goals scored with 7 and 8 assists.

Defensively the Merritt Centennials don't have impressive numbers here either giving up an average of 3.47 goals against per game, which is only .5 better than Prince George who has a 3.95 goals against average per game. The difference appears to be in the actual goal spread. The Centennials have been in eight overtime games so far and two more that were decided by a single goal with a record of 6 wins, 3 overtime losses and 1 tie. Of the other games that were decided by two or more goals, they have been in three two-goal games (2-1), five three-goal games (2-3) and one loss in a game that was decided with a five goal spread.

Close games seem to go the way of the Merritt Centennials, especially on home ice where they will dump and chase the puck all night long looking for a turnover that they can capitalize on. The Spruce Kings are aware of this and will have to be prepared for it if they hope to even up the season series with the Merritt Centennials. Prince George has had its own roller coaster ride already this season having been on a five game winning streak high and recently coming out of a five game winless stretch that saw them pick up only two points in some hard fought battles prior to the 5-2 win their last time out.

Game number 20 against the Merritt Centennials marks the one-third mark in the season and the Spruce Kings would love nothing more than to be one game above .500 coming back home for a double header against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday and Sunday. Before they can look ahead to the home dates, they will have to deal with the Merritt Centennials and there is certainly a lot of optimism heading into that game with the return of Khaira and Earnest.

Both players are NCAA Division I committed players that have the ability to open up a game offensively while punishing the other team with their physical play. When Jujhar Khaira last skated with the Spruce Kings, he was sitting in second place among the League's leaders; he comes back still in the top 15 and wanting to start climbing back up the list. Jeff Earnest only has two games under his belt this season and wants to get back in the game and start climbing the ladder himself as he is the only player on the Spruce Kings roster without a point.

Khaira will return to his left wing position on the top line with Michael Colantone at centre and Paul De Jersey on the right side. Earnest will play left wing on a line centred by Tyson Witala and right winder Stefan Bazar. The other lines will remain the same with the Fitzgerald triplets (Myles, Leo and Gerry) skating together and the McHaffie twins (Spencer and Scott) with Michael Klonarakis. Defensively there has been very little movement with Ben Woodley, Chase Golightly, Trevor Esau, Ben Matthews, Skylar Pacheco and Cody Bardock patrolling the blue line. Kirk Thompson is expected to get the start with Marcus Beesley the backup.

I had a chance to catch up with coach Dave Dupas and talk about all of this and a few other things before the team boarded the bus to head to Merritt. I started by asking him about getting to full regular roster for the first time this season.

download audio file

I did talk to Coach Dupas about a few other things including being a .500 team, scheduling nightmares and what the team has been working on during the weekend for these next few games coming up.

download audio file

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bringing Home the Gold and a Whole Lot More

Jujhar Khaira proudly displays his gold medal he won with
Team Canada West at the 2011 World Junior A Challenge

Jujhar Khaira arrived back in Prince George earlier today sporting a little something around his neck but it was the pride that beamed through loud and clear for this Spruce Kings forward. Khaira spent the last couple of weeks in Langley, BC with Team Canada West sharing a common goal of winning gold and now the hard work hangs off a black ribbon around his neck and lingers deep inside his memory bank.

Into his second season with the Spruce Kings and Junior A hockey career, Khaira has been one of those players that has turned heads, left scouts scribbling notes and broadcasters scratching their heads on how to pronounce this still relatively unknown sensation's name (for the record it is Ja_jar Care_ah). For those that know him, it is a mystery how this skilled, physical forward could have gone unnoticed previously.

At the age of 15, when other hockey players his age were hearing their names called in the Bantam Draft, Khaira did not. It left him wondering if hockey was really the sport for him. He was playing for the Cloverdale Colts and his loyalty to the team kept on the ice and in the game to the end of the season. It was during these late season games that he was spotted by a Spruce Kings scout who sat down with the teenager and encouraged him to come to Prince George.

He came as an unknown and quickly had the attention of the Spruce Kings coaching and scouting staff at the main camp who wasted no time in asking Khaira if he would like to stay and try and make the team through the preseason schedule. He made the team as a 16 year old player and began playing above his age almost immediately, looking more like an 18 or 19 year old on the ice. He had the ability to win puck battles along the board, move the puck through traffic and feather a pass to an open player at will.

These abilities earned him a NCAA Division I scholarship with the Michigan Tech Huskies as his stock continued to rise in the BCHL. In the off season, Jujhar knew that he wanted to come back for his second season as the best 17 year old possible. He worked out hard and had a growth spurt that saw him grow two inches taller and put on 20 pounds of pure muscle. His work ethic and attitude towards the game gave him a spot on the top line which he embraced.

Although he has missed six games with his time away playing for Team Canada West, Jujhar Khaira's name still sits in the top fifteen among the League leading scorers with 11 goals and 16 assists in just 13 games. That puts him on a 2.1 points per game pace which is tops in the League alongside his line mate, Paul De Jersey. With the experience that he has gained playing in the World Junior A Challenge, he certainly hopes he won't be missing a beat when he gets back into the Spruce Kings roster.

Juhar Khaira was the youngest on the 22 player Team Canada West roster having only turned 17 exactly 3 months before the gold medal game was played. Khaira found himself in more of a checking role providing a physical presence with more of a defensive assignment in the games. Spruce Kings Head Coach, Dave Dupas thinks that the experience will make Khaira more of an all-around good player and in the process make the Spruce Kings that much better as well.

I had a chance to sit down with Jujhar after he arrived back in Prince George and got his thoughts on the whole experience.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Spruce Kings Get Back Into The Win Column

The Spruce Kings were finally able to bump the slump, taking down the Grizzlies by a score of 5-2. It was a great game from top to bottom for the home team as they created the better scoring chances and answered the bell when needed. Let’s recap the big match up today from the Coliseum between the Victoria Grizzlies and your Prince George Spruce Kings

The Look Back:

This afternoons matinee was an entertaining one, and not just because Prince George came away with the win. It was a back and forth affair that saw both teams and both goaltenders keeping their teams in the game from the start. Jamie Tucker and Kirk Thompson each made some stellar stops for their squads, but it was Thompson who received the most help. Paul De Jersey scored his first of two goals on the afternoon at the 17 minute mark of the 1st period. Michael Colantone and Chase Golightly would add the helpers on what really was a highlight reel goal. The Spruce Kings would head into the dressing room with the all important lead after one period of play.

The second period is where we saw the offence explode, mostly in favour of the Spruce Kings. Paul De jersey would tally the games second goal, his second of the game and 20th of the season at the 8 minute mark. Michael Colantone would add another assist with newcomer Stefan Bazar getting in on the fun as well.  After Gerry Fitzgerald scored to make it 3-0, the Victoria Grizzlies decided that they had had enough. Cam Lawson worked his way into the Spruce Kings zone with speed, and fired a wrist shot past Thompson to put his team on the board.  But, Prince George wasn’t about to become yet another team to fall to the Grizzlies after owning a sizeable lead. Myles Fitzgerald would score just 27 seconds later to re-establish the three goal lead, and help his team head into the dressing room up 4-1.

The third period saw the Grizzlies come out determined as Brad Gehl put home a one timer from Cam Lawson. The goal came at the four minute mark, leaving Victoria with lots of time left to tie the game up. Skylar Pacheco was going to have none of that on his watch though, as he scored his first ever BCHL goal just 1 minute and 18 seconds later. The rookie fired a point shot past a screened Tucker to ice the game for his squad.

The Spruce Kings played a very tight game today, and besides a few lapses in judgement in their own end, this was a fantastic performance. Kirk Thompson rallied back from a tough game against Merritt, making 28 saves in the win. Paul De Jersey continued to add to his point totals, bringing him within a point of the league lead in scoring.

To get a full box score recap of tonight’s contests, click here

The Three Stars:

3) (VIC) Cameron Lawson - 1 Goal 1 Assist

2) (PG) Michael Colantone - 2 Assists

1) (PG) Paul De Jersey - 2 Goals 1 Assist

Next Up:

Prince George will now look to carry this momentum into next weekends set of games against interior conference rivals, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Silverbacks come into next weekends match up on a high note, having scooped up 7 of a possible 8 points in there past four games. It will be a good weekend battle of division rivals, be sure to head to the Coliseum to check it out, or listen in to the broadcast.

Birthday Wishes and a Homecoming

Michael Colantone (26) gets to play against
his former team on his birthday

Could you pick a better day for a game than this one? Not if you're Michael Colantone. It seems that the schedule makers had a crystal ball when they were putting together dates for the inter-divisional games. With the revisited half-interlock schedule, teams only play teams outside of their conference once in the season and the kicker is that only half of those games will be played in the Castle. On this day, Michael Colantone's former and current teams will meet on his birthday in Prince George.

The speedy forward has embraced his trade to Prince George and earned his spot on the top line centering Paul De Jersey and Jujhar Khaira to the tune of 25 points (10 goals and 15 assists). Of course Khaira will not be in the lineup today, as he will be playing for a Gold medal in an all Canadian matchup at the sixth World Junior A Challenge. Khaira's spot has been filled most recently by the newest addition to the roster, Stefan Bazar.

In his first game with his new team, Bazar figured in all four Spruce Kings goals. Paul De Jersey was also in on all four of those goals while Colantone was in on two of them, although he was on the ice for all four. That chemistry is something the Spruce Kings will be banking on again as they take on an unfamiliar foe in the Victoria Grizzlies ... at least unfamiliar to most with the obvious exception being Michael Colantone.

The Victoria Grizzlies come in to the game in very similar circumstances as the Prince George Spruce Kings. Both teams had Saturday off after playing Friday night in a game both teams would rather not remember. The Spruce Kings fell into a deep hole early and found themselves down 4-1 after the first twenty minutes. They were able to stop the bleeding for the most part in the middle frame giving up only one goal before mounting a comeback that got them to within one before the Centennials finished with a pair late to win the game 7-4.

Meanwhile on the largest ice surface in the BCHL, the Grizzlies went into the South Surrey Arena to face the top team in the Coastal Division - the Surrey Eagles. The Grizzlies opened the scoring in the first period but, after giving up a pair to the Eagles, were forced to come back to tie the game twice before the end of the first period. In the second, the Eagles started pulling ahead outscoring the visitors from our province's capital 4-2 to take a 7-5 lead into the third period. In the final frame, only the Eagles would light the lamp to finish the game with an 8-5 decision.

Both teams come into today's game sitting in fifth place in their respective divisions. The Grizzlies are one point back of climbing into the top half of the Coastal Conference while the Spruce Kings require two victories to do the same after the Chilliwack Chiefs pulled out a Saturday night win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks to pull four points in front of Prince George. The Spruce Kings are one point back of .500 with a record of 7-8-1-2, giving them 17 points in 18 games; the Grizzlies have 11 wins and 11 losses in their 22 games to start the season.

Looking at some more numbers a little closer, this should be a great game with lots of offensive potential. Both teams have a trio of snipers in the League's scoring race. Leading the race is Victoria Grizzlies three year vet Wade Murphy with 39 points (14 goals 25 assists), right on his heels with 35 points including a League's best 18 goals is Prince George's Paul De Jersey (18 goals 17 assists). De Jersey actually gets the better stat here with an average of 2.1 points per game having only played in 17 games to Murphy's 22. And to further sway that stat to the home team, Wade Murphy's talents were on display at the CJHL Prospects game making him unavailable for the Victoria Grizzlies.

Still with the scoring race sitting in 4th and 5th are Jarryd Ten Vaanholt (11 goals 20 assists) and Mike Moran (13 goals 17 assists). This is where the edge goes to the Victoria Grizzlies as the Spruce Kings next best include the previously mentioned and unavailable Jujhar Khaira (11 goals 16 assists) and Michael Colantone (10 goals 17 assists). Scoring depth also appears to favour the Grizzlies as they have scored 25 goals more than the Spruce Kings to this point in the season, but have also played four extra games.

Perhaps the one important stat that will ultimately determine the outcome of this game is team defence. The Spruce Kings have the edge here having given up fewer goals than the Grizzlies. The Spruce Kings have done a great job in creating a team that has the ability to shut down other teams from the blue line out and that was the key for the early season success that the team was enjoying. To get back in the win column, the Spruce Kings will need to close that door again and allow the skilled forwards to do their thing when they get the chance.

Every player wants to have a big game on their birthday and every player wants to have a big game when they play against their former team. For Michael Colantone he wants to have a big game every game so look to him to be a big factor in this game. Also look to Stefan Bazar to have a memorable game in his first game in front of his new hometown fans. Of course for Victoria, there is always the pride factor and you know that Prince George minor hockey product Victor Gervais will have his team ready to go.

Game time is 3pm in the Prince George Coliseum.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Who Will Win The Battle Of The Kings?

It's game day, and tonight the Spruce Kings continue their road trip as they visit the Kings of Powell River. Prince George visits the island after dropping a 4-3 decision to the Chilliwack Chiefs, a game that was decided by a penalty shot in double overtime. The Spruce Kings have had a tough go on the road this season, winning just 1 game away form the Castle. Can they change the tide tonight, let's preview the match up and see. It's The Powell River Kings taking on the Your Prince George Spruce Kings tonight.

The Break Down:

As mentioned, the Spruce Kings have had a rough go on the road, having won just one game out of six this season. They have lost two of those in overtime, but that doesn't make it any less sour for the boys. They played a dynamite 55 minutes against Vernon early in the season, but came away on the wrong side of things. Then last night, they tied it late against Chilliwack, but a penalty in double overtime gave the Chiefs a chance to capitalize, and they did just that. The only win on the road this year for the Spruce Kings was a mid week game in Salmon Arm, where they beat the Silverbacks 6-3. Prince George haven't faired very well though against Powell River the past few years. You have to go back to the 08/09 season to find the last time that the Spruce Kings have beaten the Kings of Powell River. It's the second game in as many nights for the Spruce Kings, and the second of three in a row.

The Powell River Kings also come into tonight having just played, a game that went into overtime as well, but they came away with the win. They defeated Cowichan Valley 3-2 at home, and will look to carry that momentum into tonight's match up. The Kings are off to another stellar start, sitting in second place with a record of 10-5-1 and are just 1 point out of first. The task of knocking off the Kings at home has been a hard one for every team this season, as they are a perfect 8-0 at the Hap.

The Stats:

Paul De jersey was back in full form last night, scoring twice and adding an assist on the only other goal. De Jersey once again has a hold of the most goals title with 16 on the year. Ben Woodley added an assist to his point total in last nights loss. The Ontario native sits in second for the most assist by a Defenceman this season.

Cohen Adair leads the charge for the Kings this season, leading in both the goals and points categories. Powell River also has a very talented defenceman who has been racking up point this season. Craig Dalrymple sits in third for scoring by a D-Man this year The Kings will be without talented youngster Evan Richardson and goaltender Sean Maguire for the next few games as they are with Spruce King Jujhar Khaira at the World Junior A Challenge.

Game Time:

This will be the only time this year that these two teams will square off, meaning we will unofficially dub this "The Battle For The Crown". Kirk Thompson is likely to get the start tonight as he had a fantastic performance against the Chiefs last night, making 42 saves in the loss. It's not known who will get the start tonight with Maguire away for the time being. Jamie Phillips started last night and got the win, but the back to back games could see former Spruce King Cameron Large start between the pipes for the PR Kings. Tonight's action takes place at the Hap Parker Arena with the puck dropping at 7:30pm. Former Cariboo Cougars play by play man Alex Rawnsley will call tonight's action on 95.7 Sun Fm. You can listen to the game live and free here, just click on the listen live link.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Rivalry Renewed, With a Twist

Tonight the Spruce Kings will renew a rivalry, but with a bit of a change of scenery. Prince George has traveled to Chilliwack, as they are getting set to take on the former Quesnel Millionaires. This Chilliwack Chiefs squad is in its first year of existence since relocating, and it’s been a pretty successful start to the season. The Spruce Kings have come out of the gates flying as well, but a recent loss to Alberni Valley has let out a bit of wind from the sails. Both teams will be looking to continue to climb up the Interior Conference standings tonight, so let’s preview the match up between the Chilliwack Chiefs and your Prince George Spruce Kings

The Break Down:

For years, this was the battle of a couple of teams who lived just about an hour apart. Most teams who traveled to either Quesnel or Prince George, had a long way to go. But when these two met, having to deal with a long bus ride was not a factor. The Spruce Kings and the Millionaires met eight times last season, with Quesnel winning 5 of those match ups. Like the name change this year though, the Chiefs are a much different and better team. They have only 5 players who returned from the Millionaire days, and it shows on the ice. This organization has a new outlook and is moving in the right direction as the year rolls on. Attendance is way up compared to their Quesnel days, and right now they sit in 5th place, but having played 1 to 2 less games then most.

Speaking of new look franchises, the Spruce Kings have made a name for themselves early in the BCHL season. The top line has come flying out of the gates, establishing themselves as one of the tops in the league. Rookie goaltender Marcus Beesley has been a pleasant surprise early, and the bulking defense has showed that sized does matter. Unfortunately tonight the Kings will once again be without Jujhar Khaira as he has cracked the roster of the Junior A West Canadians. Paul De Jersey will return for his first game back since trying out for the same team. De Jersey will skate on the top line with Tyson Witala and Michael Colantone. Starting in goal tonight for the Spruce Kings will be Kirk Thompson. Thompson will be playing in his back yard, as he is from Surrey, BC.

The Stats:

As mentioned, Paul De Jersey will return to the line up tonight, as he'll look to continue to move up in the scoring race. De Jersey still sits at tie for the most goals this year. The Chiefs don't have that one player who has had a points explosion, but it really has been a score by comity approach. Every Chilliwack players has a point this season, with Malcom Gould and David Bondra leading the charge

Game Time:

The rivalry is renewed tonight as the Chilliwack Chiefs will host your Prince George Spruce Kings. The Spruce Kings sit in 5th right now with a 7-6-0-1 record while the chiefs are just 2 points behind them with a 6-6-0-1 record. It's another important match up between division rivals, and the first of eight between the two clubs. Puck drops at 7pm and you can listen to Marc Fitzgerald's broadcast of the game on he Chiefs radio station here. Go Spruce Kings

Sunday, October 30, 2011

At the Quarter Mark in the Season

As I work my way back into more of my usual role with the Spruce Kings I decided to catch up with the General Manager and cover what has transpired over the first 14 games of the what is the Spruce Kings 40th season. There have been some ups and there have been some downs along the way, but the one thing that is noticeable is a winning record, especially at home. I touch on that and whole lot more in my interview with Mike Hawes who had some interesting things to say about the team both positive and negative.

It was a lengthy interview so I broke it down into four parts. In this first part we just went over some of the general impressions of the season to date and talked about the pleasant surprises so far from a team that has been hovering at or above the .500 record and hanging around in the top half of the Interior Division since the opening night.

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Now certainly through the course of a season not everything can go according to plan and sometimes things go completely the opposite direction. I asked Mike about some of those games that I saw as huge positives and early season momentum boosters such as the 8-0 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters, the 5-4 double overtime victory over the Penticton Vees and the recent 3-2 win over the Vernon Vipers. But there were also some disappointing results in there as well.

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Some big tests lay ahead for the Spruce Kings including their first meeting against the reincarnation of the Quesnel Millionaires, the Spruce Kings will play the Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday night as the first of three in a row this weekend.

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I wrapped up the interview by getting his thoughts moving forward and asking about the impact some of the rule changes are having on the team and their performance especially with the pressure of having to perform every night with only four playoff positions available in each conference.

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I, for one, am very encouraged by what I have seen through the early part of the season and am looking for many more positives from Mike Hawes, Dave Dupas and the coaching staff and especially the players that have shown so much potential and have invigorated the hockey fans of Prince George with a fun, exciting, entertaining and winning work ethic on the ice.