Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Allan Bristowe Perspective

The Spruce Kings took a little time to get off the ice
to reflect on their season as it all came to an end

A day after the Spruce Kings season came to an end, Allan Bristowe of CKPG TV Sports aired a story to wrap up the season and look ahead to next year. What follows is a replication of that story that is available from the CKPG website.

Even though the season came to an end Tuesday night, it was a special year for the Spruce Kings. The team turned it around on the ice, getting back in the playoffs and creating a long lost buzz in the community about the team this season.

With the final buzzer on Tuesday March 20th an exciting season of Spruce Kings hockey came to an end. The Spruce Kings finished third in the Interior Conference, making it back to the playoffs for the first time in three years and they had the League's leading scorer in Paul De Jersey. But there were more than just on-ice successes this year at the Coliseum.

"The guys turned the City around," said Spruce Kings Head Coach, Dave Dupas. "We had packed houses here, people got behind us and they seemed invested in the team. Sometimes you would get crowds in here and they would come just to come, but these people were behind us all the way. They were cheering for us and they kind of took ownership of the team and the guys felt it."

"The community and everything was great this year," said Spruce Kings sophomore forward, Jujhar Khaira. "We're lucky to have a community like this to support us."

Even though the Spruce Kings were swept in their playoff series with the Merritt Centennials, they will try to build on that outcome.

"You know we've learned a few things from this series," stated Dupas. "We have to probably get a little bit grittier and get guys that are going to want to go to the net a little bit more. We built our team on speed and skill and it served us well. We have some very good players and we won a lot of games like that. In order to beat teams like (Merritt) we are probably going to have to change up a little bit."

The Spruce Kings will lose six players but are excited about the core of individuals who will be coming back.

"The Fitzgeralds are going to be point-a-game type guys and first line type guys in this League," added Dupas. "They will have big years, all three of them. We're excited to see those guys come back."

"I think we're going to be the go-to guys," said returning forward, Leo Fitzgerald. "We're going to have a lot of weight on our shoulders, but I think we can handle it."

The next step to keeping the Spruce Kings competitive will happen during the weekend of April 12th to 15th when the team will host its annual Spring Camp at the Coliseum.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Tough End, But What a Ride!!

Leo Fitzgerald scored a short handed goal

It was a tough way to end a magical run, but alas, the season has come to a close. They fought hard through 4 games, but couldn't come away with the much needed “W”. Tonight's contest had it's moments, but when the horn sounded, the better team was moving on. The game featured many wild sequences, most not in favour of the home team, with the 2nd period featuring an all out circus. But, let's start with the first, a period that was mainly dominated by the Centennials.

Once again, the Centennials opened up the scoring, but this time it took them over 18 minutes to find the back of the net. The goal came on the power play, by who else than the Spruce Kings killer in the series, Evan Stack. The Centennials forward scored the overtime winner the night before and had already potted a game winner earlier in the series. The goal was the only one in the first period, with the shots all tied at 10. Merritt did out chance the Spruce Kings in the period, and were really taking it to the home team. Prince George came out a little tentative, and it showed.

The second period is where things really started to unravel for Prince George. Leo Fitzgerald scored a short handed marker half way through the 2nd to tie the game up and send the fans into a frenzy. It didn't last long though as a weird transition saw Tyson Witala get hauled down going after yet another short handed breakaway. Shortly after Jarryd Ten Vaanholt dropped to the ice after taking a knee on knee hit, which then lead to Merritt breaking in on a 3 on 1 and scoring their second power play goal of the game. Chad Brears would get the goal, but the whole scenario took only 10 seconds, and left the fans furious. The crowd rained down boos, chanting “NO GOAL” over and over, which obviously fell to deaf ears. From a broadcasting stand point, I agreed with them. Tyson Witala was clearly interfered with on his way to the puck. I understand letting teams decide the game in playoffs, but that's not what happened. The non call and subsequent goal changed the tempo of the game, and took away any momentum that Prince George had gathered with the short handed marker.

After all of this, Paul De Jersey ended up losing his cool, cross checking Brent Fletcher in the chops behind the play to get himself ejected from the hockey game. It was obviously emotions boiling over, but the penalty put his team in a 5 minute short handed scenario, and took yet another weapon away. Merritt wouldn't capitalize on the major penalty, but 9 minutes later Carter Shinkaruk put a wrister past a screened Ty Swabb to out a strangle hold on the hockey game.

The third period saw Prince George receive 3 power play opportunities, but non of which would produced goals. Before it was all said and done though, Captain Ben Matthews showed why he is the captain of this hockey club. With 15 seconds on the clock, Merritt trickle a puck towards the empty Prince George net, but in a last second desperation move, Matthews fought off a Centennials, dove out, and swiped it off the goal line. The move caused him to go face first into the post, but it really showed why he was made captain. He has the heart of a champion, and with 15 seconds remaining, some would have packed it in and let the puck go to protect himself, but not Mr. Ben Matthews.

The game would end 3-1, giving Merritt the sweep over their Interior conference rivals. When the dust settled, Prince George was just out matched by a group of players that were playing as a complete unit. Merritt doesn’t have the flashiest of guys, or the top scorers of the league. What they have is a hard nosed style, and a group of men who go to war. Package that with a fine goaltending performance by Laval native Lino Chimienti, and they are a force to be reckoned with next round.

The Three Stars:

3)(PG)Michael Colantone

2)(PG)Ben Matthews

1)(PG)Jarryd Ten Vaanholt

To read the full box score recap, click here.

Next Up:

As we said before, it was a magical season that eventually had to come to an end. I don't think many fans expected it to go down this way, but sometimes that's just hockey. It'll be a tough way for some of these players to end their BCHL careers, but they can hold their heads high knowing they've helped rejuvenate a franchise and a city. We will take a couple of days to regroup, and then give you one final run down on the season and our final thoughts on this blog. Thanks for everything this season, we could not have done it with out YOU, the fans!

Inspiration from the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers

During the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers
erased a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

There are few things in sports that capture the attention and the memory of sports fans more than a comeback. It’s the story that fans share, the experience that can make an ordinary game an extraordinary moment.

There is nothing more exhilarating than seeing the odds stacked against a team only to watch it pull off the impossible. That is what the Spruce Kings must do if they are to get past the pesky Merritt Centennials in the BCHL Interior Conference Semi-Finals.

There is history on the side of the Spruce Kings with teams like the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers that all erased 3-0 series leads to win the next four games.

It is never an easy task when facing elimination, but sometimes just knowing that all you can do is what you can do takes the pressure off and allows for the greatness to come out.

Looking back over the previous three games it is easy to say that bounces have played a role in how the series sits heading in to Game 4, but sometimes you have to make your own bounces. Game 3 saw just that with the Spruce Kings battling back from a two goal deficit.

The Spruce Kings used adversity and drew on the energy of the fans in the Castle to get back on an even footing and force overtime. Tonight the task is a little more daunting as they find themselves in a must win situation.

There is no looking ahead, there is only now and playing like there is no tomorrow for the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Do or Die Now....

Another very entertaining game at the Castle, but this time, the home team couldn't come away with the “W”. Game 3 in the best of 7 with Merritt was what a lot of us expected, a close, gritty contest that would take until the final shot or two to decide. Ultimately, that is what we got, as Merritt took another win, but this time needing an extra frame. The Spruce Kings certainly aren't eliminated yet, but they have a big hole to climb out of, and they don't have a lot of time to figure out how to do it. If they plan on picking up their first win of the series tomorrow, they will need a much better start than they did tonight.

We talked about it during the pre game, how the Spruce Kings needed to establish their game earlier. It seemed though that the playoff jitters had hit them as the Centennials came out flying, out chancing the home team early. They eventually got the games first goal, as Reece Willcox put home a feed from Jakob Reichert. The tally silenced the crowd, and got things off to a sour start. Luckily for the Spruce Kings, they were blessed with a power play opportunity, and Gerry Fitzgerald had no intention of letting the game stay the way it was. He put home a nice passing play that started with Chase Golightly and his brother Myles. The goal was the teams first power play marker of the series, although it wouldn't hold them in a tie for long. Sean Maktaak just 3:30 later to give his team the eventual lead they would take into the intermission.

Things then took a turn for the worst, as the Centennials scored just over 1 minute into the period to take their first 2 goal lead of the game. Dylan Chanter got the goal on a weird play that saw Thompson end up on his stomach, with a bunch of players just standing around, wondering where the puck even was. As it turned out, it bounced back to Chanter, who easily slapped one into a yawning cage. The goal sucked the wind out of the Coliseum, and left many wondering if we were witnessing a blue print of the first two games. But, just as we mentioned in the broadcast that we'd like to see more out of the top line, they responded with an energy shift that eventually saw Paul De Jersey put home a Michael Colanotne rebound. It was the only one of the period for the Spruce Kings, but put them down only by one heading into the final frame.

The third period ended up being owned by the Spruce Kings, but unfortunately for them, they could only score once. Myles Fitzgerald tied the game up half way through, and the building regained it's electricity. The Spruce Kings used that momentum to fire shot after shot at Lino Chimienti, but alas, could not beat him. Their best chance came in the final minute, as Jujhar Khaira had a decent look at an open net, but couldn't capitalize. When the horn sounded, the scored was still identical, so it was off to overtime we went.

The start of the extra period started as the third period looked, all Prince George. They attacked, and pounded away, but couldn't beat the Centennials net minder. Paul De Jersey even had a breakaway attempt just 30 seconds in, but he made one to many moves, lost control of the puck and allowed a stream of players to crash into the net stopping play. The crowd tried to argue that the puck had crossed the line, but Chimienti fought off the surge. After some more Spruce Kings pressure, the Cents worked up ice, applied a few chances before taking advantage of a fortunate bounce. A Prince George defender attempted to clear the puck, but it took an unlucky bounce off of a stanchion, bounced right in front of Evan Stack who than stepped into the gift, sending it top corner. Players and fans looked on in disbelief as Stack was mobbed by his teammates in Kirk Thompsons crease. It was a sour end, to a great push by the Spruce Kings.

In the end, a slow start, bad bounces and sloppy play in the first two periods helped cost Prince George their first playoff win since March 2nd, 2009. They had chances at the end of the 3rd, and even quality chances in overtime, but couldn't bury them. When that happens, you usually lose off of a unlucky, or in Merritt's case, lucky bounce. They'll need to play a full 60 minutes, and leave everything out on the ice if they hope to start the comeback tomorrow. They fought extremely hard at times tonight, and really poured it on the ice in the final two frames, but the disappointment of being swept now looms. They'll have to dig deep, find every ounce of strength and get ready for what they can only hope, is the ride of their lives.

To read the full box score recap, click here

The Three Stars:

3)(PG)Myles Fitzgerald

2)(PG)Chase Golightly

1)(MER)Billy Marshall

Next Up:

Plain and simple, win and live to see another day. Game 4 will play out at the Coliseum tomorrow night, with the puck dropping at 7pm. After what has been a magical season for the Spruce Kings, being swept in your first playoff appearance in a few years would certainly leave a disappointing taste. Battle hard, don't panic and earn another trip into Merritt. Don't forget, the game will be broadcast on CFIS, so bring your hand held radio's with you and get the full play by play as you watch. We hope to see a packed rink supporting the boys!! Let's get that playoff win!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Playoffs Begin in Merritt

The Prince George Spruce Kings are getting set for playoff hockey for the first time in three years. March 2nd, the last time they have won a game in the post season, but you have to go back to the 07/08 season to find the last time they won one of the road. The organization and it's fans have had a rough couple of years since, but this season there is a lot of room for optimism. They are coming off one of their most exciting season in the history of the BCHL Spruce Kings. Paul De Jersey won the clubs first ever Brett Hull Trophy, Jujhar Khaira was rated as the leagues top player in the NHL Central rankings and they ended the Penticton Vees monumental streak at 42 games. They have great reason to thin they can go deep into the playoffs, but they also must know, there is still a lot of work needed to be done to make that happen.

Merritt is a great home team, grinding clubs down in their own barn. In three meetings this season at the Nicola Valley Arena won only 1 game, which was in overtime. This season, Merritt won 19 of their 30 home games, and only lost 5 in regulation. There is no doubt that the Centennials like to play in front of their hometown, and with home ice advantage in the series, it is imperative the Spruce Kings come away with at least a split this weekend. To add injury to insult, Merritt has won three straight contest over the Spruce Kings.

Prince George can take pride in knowing that they are 7-2 in their past 9 road games, but as mentioned, the slate is wiped clean now. It's a whole new season, and the Spruce Kings plan to rewrite their road record and home record going forward. If they want to knock off the surging Centennials this round, they'll need stellar goaltending, gritty answers and balanced scoring throughout. If the Centennials stick to their game, and play the grinding down style that they are known or, it could be a long series for our home town boys. Coach Dupas most certainly has a plan in place, now we get the chance to see how the teams react. The message to all should be, you never know when you'll be back, so act and play like you won't be!

Game Time:

Who would of thought at the start of the season, that these two teams would be showcased in a first round playoff series. A time in Prince George who missed the post season last year, versus a team who didn't even win a post season game last year. This is poised to be one of the best series of the first round, and luckily for you, we will have all 7 games broadcast on CFIS. Join Ron Gallo for the road games, and myself Matt Anthony for the Home games. Click here to catch all the action.

It All Starts Now!

Playoff Preview with Matt Anthony

With the playoffs set to start tonight, I had a chance to talk to Matt Anthony about all things Spruce Kings this season. This is Matt's first year in Prince George and his first real introduction to the Spruce Kings. It was a great season to come on board and provide the play-by-play broadcast of all the home games. Watching the game at that level and preparing for those games in the Castle gave Matt an opportunity to learn things about the team and to see things evolve from the beginning of the season to the start of the playoffs.

In this interview Matt and I talk about many aspects of the season and even share our predictions for the first round playoff series between the Merritt Centennials and the Prince George Spruce Kings. I started by asking Matt to talk about two underdog teams at the beginning of the year that are now set to do battle in a best-of-seven series.

download audio file

The Second Season Begins Tonight

In a two part interview with the Prince George Spruce Kings General Manager, Mike Hawes, we took a look back at the sixty game regular season and all of the accomplishments that were reached and all of the ingredients that went into achieving the goal of returning to the postseason. If that was at least part of the first goal, then yes the team has found success but there has to be more and that is the subject of the second half of my interview with Mike Hawes.

When we left off, Hawes was just starting to talk about the two teams that are meeting in the first round of the playoffs. Two teams that haven't seen each other since December 9th in a game that was decided by a single goal yet again. In the seven meeting between the two teams five were decided by that single goal, each team won an overtime game and each team also won by a three goal spread. The difference was that the Merritt Centennials did find three more wins then the Spruce Kings did.

Knowing that the Spruce Kings wanted to play the Centennials in the first round I was immediately reminded of the cliche that you should be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. I asked Mike Hawes if the Merritt Centennials are really the team the Spruce Kings want to play in the first round of the playoffs.

download audio file

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One Last Look Back

It truly has turned in to a memorable season so far, but the message I'm hearing today from the office and even in the dressing room is that was just the regular season and the playoffs are a whole new game. It might be cliche for sure, but it is also true. Getting to the post season is just that, getting to play a few more games. The real test is take all the good that happened in the regular season and parlay that into four more wins before your opponent does the the same thing.

Heading into the regular season, the Spruce Kings were ruled out of making the playoffs by a few people but there were just as many determined to make it happen this year. I had an opportunity to sit down and talk to one of those people, the architect of this year's team. He won't say that because he believes it was a collaborative effort that encompasses the scouts that live many miles away right up to the trainers, volunteers and even the fans of the team.

Mike Hawes put in many hours over countless days looking for the right people to come in and make something out of what was really nothing for the previous two seasons. In my conversation he talks about player acquisitions that started over a year ago when he first took on the role of the team's full time General Manager. He talks about the coaches, the marketing team, the corporate supporters and the hockey fans in Prince George.

In the first of a two part feature interview with the Spruce Kings General Manager, I start by asking Mike Hawes if he thinks this season can be called a success.

download audio file

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BCHL Preview of THE Series

Earlier today the BCHL contacted myself and also Alex Grebenyuk (play-by-play voice for the Merritt Centennials) to gets some thoughts on this first round series. Here's how it came out in the British Columbia Hockey League's weekly email newsletter.

#3 Prince George Spruce Kings (33-21-2-4) vs. #2 Merritt Centennials (34-18-2-6)

For the first time in a while, there is genuine excitement about the playoff prospects of the Spruce Kings and Centennials. Prince George missed the playoffs last year and Merritt was swept in the first round by Salmon Arm. This year the teams had 39 and 25-point improvements in the standings respectively.

"The last three home games here were all sell-outs," noted Spruce Kings play-by-play voice Ron Gallo. "There is a buzz around the city that we haven't seen in a long, long time."

There's good reason for that. The top line of De Jersey - Colantone - Khaira has been supported wonderfully by the Fitzgerald triplets Gerry, Leo and Myles who have basically been point-a-game players since the new year.

It's tough to pick a winner in this series; each team's goalies, starters and backups, finished in the top-10 in the league in goals-against average. And despite a 5-2 edge in the season series for Merritt, the combined scored was just 27-24 Cents.

"In my opinion, I don't think there's a favourite in this series," said Cents' play-by-play man Alex Grebenyuk, adding 20-year-old leaders Billy Marshall, Evan Stack, Lino Chimienti and Chad Brears want to finish their BCHL careers strong. "They each have three very, very deep lines, the goaltending is almost the exact same and the goals for and against. It should be a long series."


The best of seven Interior Conference Semi-Final gets started on Friday in Merritt with puck drop scheduled for 7:30pm. Game two will also be in Merritt on Saturday night at 7:30pm before the two teams head north for Games 3 and 4 in the Prince George Coliseum on Monday March 19th and Tuesday March 20th. On Monday Rick Hansen will be making a stop in his 25th Anniversary Man In Motion Tour to drop the ceremonial puck before Game 3 at 7:15pm.

The first 1000 fans in to the games on both Monday and Tuesday will receive an Official 2012 Limited Edition Playoff Towel" and all fans are being encouraged to wear white for a whiteout in the Castle.

All of the Spruce Kings games will be broadcast live on 93.1 CFIS-FM with streaming audio available from their website at as well as from the BCHL scoreboard. It is recommended to test how you will be listening to the game to make sure you can receive the audio. If you are listening online, go to the CFIS-FM website and click on the "Listen Live" link to see if you can get the streaming audio feed to work.

Paul De Jersey, A Dream Season, And Could Get Even Better...

Paul De Jersey (8) looking for the shot or the setup
It was a dream season for Prince George Spruce Kings forward Paul De Jersey. The West Vancouver native came to Prince George through a three player deal between the Spruce Kings, Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in August. While speaking with The Province Newspaper De Jersey mentioned that the trade initially worried him, as he didn't want to be known as the "guy who gets traded a lot." As it turns out, he never needed to worry, as he found a whole new life and vision in Prince George.

In training camp De Jersey impressed everyone who watched, but even the Spruce Kings personnel didn't know what was about to follow. Through Paul De Jersey's first 93 BCHL games, he amassed 11 goals and 23 points. The potential was always known, it just hadn't hit the surface yet. It didn't take long though; just 9 games in he ended up surpassing his overall goal total from the previous seasons. De Jersey had 13 goals through those 9 games, and was quickly letting fans and players know he had hit his stride. The fun didn't stop there as De Jersey continued to pile on the goals and points. With his line mates, Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone, he helped elevate the Spruce Kings both in the standings and in the public eye. The "big three' gelled immediately and instantly became one of the most feared lines in the League. Every night, when they hit the ice, you knew something special was about to happen.

De Jersey headed into the final game of the season tied for the league lead in points with Vees forward Joey Benik. It looked as though Paul may be about to lose his number 1 spot that he'd been holding for most of the season. But, the Spruce Kings forward had one more magical game left in the tank. In an adrenaline filled arena with fans and players feeding off each other, De Jersey set up team mates three times to help his team end Penticton's epic win streak. The assists were all that was needed to edge Benik out and earn himself his first ever Brett Hull trophy. Conveniently, it was the first time a Spruce Kings player had ever taken home the historical title as well. De Jersey ended the season with 41 goals and 57 assists.

As if that hardware wasn't good enough, later on in the week De Jersey was honoured by being named the top player in the Interior Conference for the 2011/2012 season. This would be only the second time that a player with the Prince George Spruce Kings would be awarded the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy, the other being Tyler Loney (2005). The fun didn't stop there as De Jersey was then voted to the BCHL First Team of All-Stars along side Penticton Vees forwards Wade Murphy and Joey Benik. Vees defenceman Mike Reilly and Vipers Brett Corkey along with Prince George native goaltender Michael Garteig were also named to the team.

As we said, De Jersey had a dream regular season with the Spruce Kings as he surpassed his career totals, won the Brett Hull trophy, collected a scholarship to Providence and helped his team get back to the playoffs for the first time after missing out two years in a row. He out did all the expectations and maybe even surprised himself. He was a force while working with Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone, and he'll need to continue to be going forward. His work is far from over, as the team gets ready to embark on what everyone hopes is a lengthy post season run. If De Jersey is on his game and continues his offensive dominance, the Spruce Kings will be a stern test for any foe going forward.

To read the announcement of all the Trophies awarded this season, and to see who made the all star teams, check out the BCHL website (click here).

The Spruce Kings have had many stellar players come through the Castle and many solid performances through their 40 year history. Is Paul De Jersey's 2011/2012 season the best we've ever seen? That is question best left unanswered and there is still lots of hockey left to determine that, but it is safe to say at this point, it most definitely deserves to be in the discussion.

Don't forget, the Spruce Kings will broadcasting playoff games, both home and away games on CFIS FM. Check back to this blog for all the updates prior to Friday night's Game 1! Prior to the game be sure to test your computer to make sure you can hear the broadcast and not miss a minute of the action. Tune your radio to 93.1 CFIS-FM or click on the "Listen Live" link on the radio station's website at

Who Are The Merritt Centennials?

The Centennials and the Spruce Kings will renew
acquaintances on Friday in Merritt

In case you are wondering the same thing, the Merritt Centennials are a team playing in the British Columbia Hockey League. They finished second in the Interior Division and now the Spruce Kings will meet the Centennials in a best of seven divisional semi-final series. It's just been so long ago since the two teams have played a game against each other ... 32 games ago and over three months ago to be exact.

Prince George and Merritt met seven times with all those meetings taking place in the first half of the BCHL 60 game regular season. Now they are ready to meet up to seven times in nine days if the Interior Division semi-final best of seven series goes the distance. The first round playoff matchup gets underway in Merritt starting on Friday night for game one and Saturday night for game two. The series will then shift to Prince George for games three and four on Monday and Tuesday night. If necessary the next three games will be played on consecutive nights beginning on Thursday in Merritt, Friday in Prince George and Saturday in Merritt.

Over the course of the last three months the two teams have been at times neck-and-neck in the Interior Division standings competing against each other for home ice advantage. The Centennials finished with a record of 34 wins, 18 losses, 2 ties and 6 overtime losses to garner 76 points while the Spruce Kings finished with 72 points (33-21-2-4). In head-to-head meetings this season, the Centennials did finish with a record of 5 wins, 1 loss and an overtime loss against the Spruce Kings and their record of 2 wins, 4 losses and an overtime loss.

Five of the games these two played against each other were decided by a single goal while the other two were three goal victories, one for each team. The goal differential between the two was just three goals (27-24) in favour of the Merritt Centennials. So really the regular season record isn't a strong indicator of what anyone can expect in the post season series; especially when you consider that the Spruce Kings made some player changes to their roster on December 1st and January 10th.

Ty Swabb and Michael Betz were two player acquisitions made just in time for the two to play one game against their Interior Division rival. While Jarryd Ten Vaanholt has not faced the Centennials this season at all, there are three other players that have never played against them - Latrell Charleson, Patrick Chore and Zack Rassell. Conversely, the Merritt Centennials only have one new player that didn't suit up for them in the seven games, Carter Shinkaruk who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Powell River Kings in exchange for future considerations.

So back to the original question, we know that the Merritt Centennials are essentially the same team they were back on December 9th. On that day their leading scorer was Regan Soquila (pron: Sa_key_la) who had 9 goals and 24 assists. Chad Brears and Evan Stack were their leading goal scorers with 11 and 10 goals respectfully. As the season rolled along, not much changed; Soquila finished as the top Centennial (16 goals, 54 assists) followed by Stack (32 goals, 29 assists) and Brears (28 goals, 30 assists). It should be noted that those three caused the most grieve for the Spruce Kings accounting for four of the five game winning goals and 13 of the 27 goals against.

It should come as no surprise that the Spruce Kings top trio of Paul De Jersey, Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone accounted for more than half the goals scored on the Merritt Centennials. The Fitzgerald triplets also enjoyed success against the Cents accounting for six goals between them. Where things get interesting is when you consider the unknowns in the equation, that being those players added to the Spruce Kings roster that have given the team a lot more depth and can cause all kinds of problems for the other team's defenses as we saw this past weekend against the Penticton Vees.

Defensively the Merritt Centennials are no slouch and have the third stingiest goals against average in the league and second best in the Interior Division. The goaltending tandem of Tyler Steel and Lino Chimienti have a GAA of 2.85 after conceded 171 goals against, 14 fewer than Prince George's goals against. Aside from Michael Garteig of the Penticton Vees, this semi-final series features the top four goaltenders from the Interior Division when looking at both goals against and save percentage.

I have always like those playoff series that feature the teams in the middle of the standings facing each other and this one is shaping up to be a great series on paper, now for the teams to deliver on the ice. We will start to find out what these two teams are capable of beginning on Friday in Merritt. Puck drop is at 7:30pm and the game can be heard on the Prince George community radio station, 93.1 CFIS-FM and online from the radio station's website at or from the BCHL Pay-Per-View website.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Record Book Updates

Kirk Thompson (1) makes a spectacular save, one of many
that puts his name in the Spruce Kings record book

While looking at the season stats and comparing them to the Spruce Kings record book, I was pleasantly surprised to see eight players added to the lists. The 40th Anniversary edition of the Prince George Spruce Kings will see Paul De Jersey, Jujhar Khaira, Gerry Fitzgerald, Ben Woodley, Chase Golightly, Ben Matthews, Kirk Thompson and Ty Swabb all added to the record book. De Jersey takes over 5th spot for goals (41) and assists (57) in a single season, he will also take over 2nd spot for single season points (98) and game winning goals (7). Khaira's 50 assists is a 9th best for a single season and brought his two year career total up to 82, good for 8th in that category. Gerry Fitzgerald also gets his name in the record book for game winning goals finishing with six on the season, one behind De Jersey.

On the defensive side of the puck, both Ben Woodley and Chase Golightly saw their career totals put them inside the top ten with points by a defencman. Woodley sits 8th with a career total of 64 in just 74 games over a season and half while Golightly takes over 10th spot with 56 points. Not seen as the offensive defenceman that either of the other two are, Ben Matthews moved in to 8th among defencemen for powerplay goals scored in his Spruce Kings career which was only the one season.

Both goaltenders worked their way in to the record books as well with Kirk Thompson finding himself with the second most career minutes played among all Spruce Kings goaltenders (3899). Thompson's 15 wins this season is one better than Brad Thiessen's 14 wins in 2005-06 and gives him the 6th most career wins with 22 for his time with the Spruce Kings. Perhaps more impressive is that Thompson's career GAA and SV% is good enough to put him in the top ten in both of those career categories for goaltenders. Ty Swabb picked up enough minutes played in just 19 games to have his name show up in the single season category for GAA and SV% along with Thompson.

Amazing Couple of Days

Myles Fitzgerald celebrates his goal against the Vees

Where do you start when there is just so much happening right now?

I'm gonna start with the ending ... the ending of an unbelievable winning streak in front of a packed house of loud and proud fans. It was absolutely amazing to witness first hand the passion of hockey fans in Prince George consuming the Castle on Saturday night. The Penticton Vees brought the absolute best out in the Spruce Kings, their fans and the City of Prince George as a whole.

Leading up to the weekend double header there was an undeniable buzz of people talking about the Spruce Kings. The team and its players were featured on all the media outlets, they were the subject of coffee shop conversation and water cooler banter. The four locations of Save On Foods took so far as to place a friendly wager that the Vees impressive run would end in Prince George. We now know it did of course in dramatic fashion in front of a third consecutive sell out at the Coliseum.

The friendly wager pitted the managers of the Save On Foods in Prince George and Penticton against each other in a believe that their teams could do the unimaginable. For Penticton that would be to set a North American record of 43 consecutive wins and for Prince George the task was to hand the Vees their first loss since November 5th, 2011. The losing managers would have to wear the other team's jersey for the whole week leading up to the playoffs. I'm still waiting for the picture of Rob Holowenko, Save On Foods Penticton manager, in a Spruce Kings jersey.

The games featured every aspect of the game of hockey that makes the sport an endearing one for every hockey fan. The talent and skill of both teams shone brightly throughout the weekend with fans being treated to highlight reel goals, big saves, end to end action and so much more. Heading into the final game of the regular season for both teams, there were three players in a fight to claim the BCHL scoring title. When the dust settled, Paul De Jersey and his three assists was the difference giving the Spruce Kings their first ever Brett Hull Trophy winner. De Jersey finished with a regular season point total of 98 (41 goals, 57 assists).

Three other Spruce Kings finished the season in the scoring race top twenty. Jujhar Khaira claimed 10th spot with 79 points (29 goals, 50 assists). Adding four goals and a pair of assists during the double header moved Michael Colantone up to 14th with 74 points (33 goals, 41 assists). Finishing the season with one more game than everyone else, Jarryd Ten Vaanholt's 14 goals and 12 assists with the Spruce Kings put him in that twentieth spot with a total of 67 points (31 goals, 36 assists). Ben Woodley (5 goals, 42 assists, 47 points) and Chase Golightly (6 goals, 37 assits, 43 points) put the blueliners in the top ten among the League's offensive defencemen. Kirk Thompson and Ty Swabb finished the regular season with identical numbers: 2.83 Goals Against Average and 90.6 Save Percentage, although Thompson played more minutes and appeared in more games than Swabb.

As the team was returning to the ice for some practice time in preparation for the playoffs, the League released its regular season trophy winners. Paul De Jersey was once again in the headlines for being named the winner of the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as the Interior Division's Most Valuable Player. Still to come from the League is the naming of the All Star Team and the Fortis BC Fan Favourite survey winners.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spruce Kings Stop The Streak

Tonight, The Spruce Kings did something that hadn't been done since November 5th of last year. That thing, was beat the Penticton Vees. The Spruce Kings came close last night, but ultimately fell short of the bid. Tonight, they would not be denied as they dethroned the Penticton Vees for the first time in 42 games. It was a streak of epic proportions, a streak that may never be matched again in the BCHL, a streak that gave the league so much exposure this season. All good things though, must come to an end as the Prince George Spruce Kings will go down in history as the ones who bumped the streak.

At the start of the broadcast, Todd said the Spruce Kings needed a quick and fast paced start if they wanted to win this hockey game. That is exactly what they did, as just 2 minutes Jarryd Ten Vaanholt scored to send the sold out crowd into a frenzy. Paul De Jersey and Tyson Witala would add assists on the opening tally. 7 minutes later though, the Vees showed why it is imperative that you don't break down defensively against them. Wade Murphy broke in on a two on one opportunity, feeding Curtis Loik to tie the game up. The rest of the period saw both teams trade chances and hits, but the scoreboard sat at 1-1 heading into the intermission.

The Vees came out with a vengeance in the second though, as Bryce Gervais would add his 42nd of the season to give his team their first lead of the hockey game. It took the Spruce Kings a little longer than they had hoped, but Ben Woodley would eventually beat a screened Katunar to once again send the crowd of over 2000 to it's feet. After some more stellar play and saves from both goaltenders, we heard the buzzer sound, and everyone was given a chance to collect their breath. Much like the game the night before, the game was up for grabs after two periods of play.

Although, unless last night, it was the home team who would own the final frame. At the 7:16 mark Myles Fitzgerald would score what turned out to be the eventual game winner. 2 minutes later, Michael Colantone would add an insurance marker on the power play to give everyone in the building hope and a real sense of “could this be happening?!” The answer, was yes as Colantone would add the empty netter to seal the deal. After some brief rough stuff, including a tilt between Sean Landrey and Dexter Dancs, the buzzer sounded and the streak became officially busted.

The win gives Prince George sole possession of 3rd place, meaning they will now battle Merritt in the first round. This win tonight gives the Spruce Kings the best piece of momentum possible to head into the playoffs with. Dropping the Vees at home, in front of a sold out crowd will surely give every player in that dressing room a boost of confidence to move forward with. It will be the first time for most of the players to experience playoff hockey in the BCHL, but they can be sure of one thing, the city of Prince George is fully behind them.

Really quickly, I’d like to give a huge congrats to the Penticton Vees on an amazing season. The run they went on, may never be touched again, and that deserves big praise. They are a talented club who are still the hands down favourite to win it all. Hopefully we'll get the chance to prove ourselves against them in the playoffs later on. What an amazing series that would be.


Another big time congrats goes to our very own number 8, Paul De Jersey. With his 3 assists tonight, De Jersey took sole lead of the lead scoring title, and became the first ever Spruce King to win the Brett Hull Trophy. An amazing accomplishment, considering he was a player who had only scored 11 goals in his BCHl career thus far.

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

The Three Stars:

3)(PG) Paul De Jersey – 3 Assists

2)(PG) Michael Colantone – 2 Goals 1 Assist

1)(PG) Ty Swabb - 25 Saves and The Win

Next Up:

After that amazing perforate, the Spruce kings will now set their sights on the playoffs and Merritt. The two Interior Conference rivals will start their battle next weekend, Friday and Saturday. Games 3 and 4 will then take place at the Castle the following Monday and Tuesday. If need be, Games 4,5 and 6 will play out on the following Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We'll have tid bits and previews for you all week on the blog. Keep checking our facebook as well, as we get you set for our first playoff run since the 08/09 season

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Great Effort, But Not Enough...

They went toe to toe with the best team in hockey, but couldn't do enough to knock off the beasts. Through two periods they lead, and the crowd was buzzing. The Vees showed why they have been so dominate this season though in the third period, and sent home the crowd of over 2000 home without a win. The game itself, was a miraculous display of hockey, and one that gave the fans their monies worth. It had lots of offense, some great saves and physical play throughout. The game started just as the Prince George faithful had hoped, quick, fast paced and with a home team goal.

Just 5 minutes in, Paul De Jersey moved in short handed and got the crowd on it's feet. It was De Jersey's first goal in 8 games, and you could see the relief on his face. It took Penticton 10 minutes, but they got their first goal of the game on the power play. Minnesota Wild prospect Mario Lucia faked out Ty Swabb and slid one under his pad. Just over a minute later, the Captain of the Vees, Logan Johnston fired home a one timer to stun the crowd. Luckily for the 2100 in attendance, Gerry Fitzgerald only needed 2 minutes to put home an equalizer. It was the triplets 17th goal of the season, and that's where we left off heading into the second period.

We wondered if the Spruce Kings could keep up the intensity they showed in the first period, and our question was answered very quickly. Michael Colantone put home a feed from Jujhar Khaira and Michael Betz at the 1:12 mark to regain the lead. Once again, the Vees would answer, this time much more quickly as Mario Lucia would net his 2nd of the hockey game. Staying with the trend of anything you can do, I can do better, Michael Colantone would score his 2nd of the game just 32 seconds later. We were finally given a chance to breath and collect our thoughts, but only for a limited amount of time. It took exactly 9 minutes, but Mario Lucia would tie the game up with his hat trick goal. And that's when you think, we have to be done right? Wrong! 49 seconds later Myles Fitzgerald snatched back the lead and took it into the intermission with him.

After being given a much deserved 20 minutes to relax, drink some water and regroup, the crazy fast paced play continued. Unfortunately for Coach Dave Dupas, it wasn't his squad who came out firing. The Vees showed why they are the best team in the BCHL as they would score 35 seconds into the period, and then 3 more times to clinch the win. It would turn out to be their 42 straight win, and one that the Spruce Kings may have let slip away. Through two periods, the Spruce Kings matched Penticton in fire power and in physicality. The team stepped up and turned it up each minute. But the third period, the period they needed to be lights out, they fell flat. Chad Katunar fell into a groove and refused to be beaten after 40 minutes. It was a great effort, but ultimately, not enough to dethrone this years Kings of the BCHL. A lot of credit should go to the Spruce Kings as they hung in and went toe to toe with maybe the best team to ever play in the BCHL. Now the task is to find a way to handle and slow down this talented bunch. They will get another chance to knock off the Vees tomorrow night, but they will only finish that task, if they play a full 60 minutes, and never let up. If you give Penticton even the smallest of openings, they will take it and run.

To get the full box score recap, click here

The Three Stars:

3) (PG) Michael Colantone – 2 Goals 1 Assist

2) (PEN) Travis ST. Denis – 1 Goal 3 Assists

1) (PEN) Mario Lucia – 3 Goals 1 Assist

Next Up:

As we said above, these two teams will once again square off tomorrow night. The match up will be the last of the season for both teams, and depending on how the rest of the schedule plays out, could show us a playoff preview. Lots of story lines to watch for as well. Zach Urban and Sean Landrey exchanged more than one word tonight, will that boil over? Paul De Jersey and Joey Benik still sit tied for 1st in points with Mario Lucia coming up the rear, just 2 points behind. Who will win that battle? Paul De Jersey also sits tied for the Goal scoring title with Bryce Gervais. Both players have 41 at the moment, will either man solely come out on top? Plus, can the Spruce Kings bet eh first team since November to stop the Vees? We'll find out these answers and more tomorrow night. Hope to see you at the rink, or we'll chat with you on the broadcast

The Final Two Games....

November 5th, the last time the Vees lost, 3-2 in Overtime against Merritt. November 2nd, the last time the team lost in Regulation. October 8th, the last time the Vees visited the Castle, which turned into a 5-4 double overtime victory for the Spruce Kings. A win that helped propel Prince George towards an incredible run, a run that will eventual see them reach the post season for the first time in 2 years. It’s been a wild season so far, and the regular portion of it is about to come to a close. The final 2 games, both against The Vees, will take place tonight and tomorrow at The Castle.

The Spruce Kings head into this game having just dropped a disappointing loss to the Vernon Vipers. The game was the Spruce Kings third in three days, but it was still an effort that Coach Dupas was not pleased to see. Prince George had a solid February that saw them go 8-2. They started off their March schedule by rattling off 2 wins, but unfortunately strong play by Merritt and Chilliwack makes it imperative that the Spruce Kings get at the very least, 1 point out of this weekends festivities. Chilliwack has three games remaining, and if they get 4 out of a possible 6 points with the Spruce Kings getting none, Prince George will be forced to challenge Penticton in the first round.

The Penticton Vees accomplishments this season have been much talked about. The team has rattled off 41 wins in a row, a Jr. A. Hockey record. Also, they just secured the record for most regular season wins. Add into the fact that they already have 3 NHL draft picks, multiple players who have committed to NCAA college’s, 8 players in the top for scoring and a Goaltender who is playing out of his mind and you can see why this is one of, if not the most talented BCHL team of all time.
Now the Spruce Kings do already own a win over the Vees this season, and it did happen at the Castle. It was a 5-4 win in double overtime as Michael Colantone scored with .2 seconds remaining. It was a win which helped raise the Spruce Kings into the team they are today. The Vees have only dropped 3 games since the loss to the Kings, and surely don’t plan on having a repeat of that October 8th night. These two have met 5 other times, with the Spruce Kings losing all of them. The Vees have out scored the Spruce Kings 29-11 this season.

One battle to watch tonight is that of Paul De Jersey and Joey Benik. The two talented forwards sit tied for 1st in league scoring with 94 points. Also, De Jersey is just 1 goal behind Bryce Gervais in the point standings. Gervais has 41 on the season while De Jersey has 40. Paul has gone 8 games without scoring a goal.

Stat Pack

-Kirk Thompson wins in bunches. Not since the start of the season, has he lost after picking up a win in his previous start.
-Last time these two teams played, Thompson faced 46 shots in the loss (Feb 26)
-Penticton is the only Interior conference team that Kirk Thompson hasn't beaten.
-Ty Swabb has only played Penticton once this year, a 30 save loss back in January.
-Ryan Reilly, Joey Benik, Steven Fogarty and Cody Depourcq are the only Vees who have played every game this season
-Michael Garteig has 41 wins this season, 11 more than the man who sits in 2nd place, Andrew Hunt. He has the best GAA, the best SP and the most shutouts with 5
-Only 5 Vees sit without scholarships at the moment

Game Time

Puck drops on tonight's contest at 7pm down at the Coliseum. We hope to see you in attendance for the final regular season games of the year. Be sure to make lots of noise tonight Spruce Kings fans!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Returning Home

During this most recent three game weekend road trip the Prince George Spruce Kings secured a berth to the playoffs following Friday night’s 6-1 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters. One night later the Spruce Kings completed a season series sweep of the Smokies with a 4-3 double overtime decision. The weekend didn’t finish as well for Prince George when they played their final road game of the season in Vernon, losing 7-3 to the three time defending League Champions, the Vernon Vipers.

On Friday night the team got scoring from six different players and a solid goaltending performance from Ty Swabb who missed out on his first BCHL career shutout with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Gerry Fitzgerald opened the scoring in the second period and that was followed up by three consecutive power play goals from Chase Golightly, Michael Colantone and Jujhar Khaira. Myles Fitzgerald rounded out a five goal second period leaving Zack Rassell to score the loan PG goal in the third period.

Myles Fitzgerald scores the overtime winner in Trail
while being hooked down (photo courtesy Randy Emery)

On Saturday night the Spruce Kings had to work from a deficit the entire night trailing 2-0 and 3-1 before mounting a third period comeback that forced overtime and a 4-3 win. Behind a pair in the second period, Prince George got on the board with a power play goal from Jarryd Ten Vaanholt. Down a pair again and this time shorthanded, Michael Colantone was turned loose with the puck and made it a 3-2 game.

That goal allowed the Fitzgerald triplets to play the role of hero when Gerry Fitzgerald found a loose puck on the power play and netted the tying goal. It took until the second overtime before Leo Fitzgerald could find his brother Myles, sending him in on a partial breakaway, who made no mistake faking backhand before pulling it to the forehand and sliding it under the glove of the netminder.

The game Sunday afternoon in Vernon didn’t start well for the Spruce Kings as they found themselves in a 5-0 hole at the end of the first period. The final score was 7-3 as they could never get closer than a four goal deficit even with some special teams success to their credit in the game. Jarryd Ten Vaanholt was the first to score for the visitors, doing so while the team was shorthanded. The next two Spruce Kings goals were both scored on the powerplay from Gerry Fitzgerald in the second period and then Tyson Witala late in the third period.

The Spruce Kings return home where they will host a double header against the best team in Canada, the Penticton Vees are currently boasting a 40 game consecutive winning streak. The games will feature opportunities for fans to win groceries for a year from Save On Foods as well as a Truck from Northland Chrysler on both nights.

With the Spruce Kings returning to the playoffs, their game broadcasts are also returning to 93.1 CFIS-FM for both the home and road games.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spruce Kings Secure a Playoff Berth

Ty Swabb (35) helped backstop the Spruce Kings to a
playoff berth in a 6-1 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters

The Prince George Spruce Kings clinched a playoff spot Friday after defeating the Smoke Eaters 6-1 in Trail. The win was the team's 31st of the season giving them a 31-19-2-4 record with four games remaining in the regular season. The team now has eyes on finishing as high as second place but will have to work if they want to pass the Merritt Centennials for that spot.

"It's an exciting time for the organization anytime you can clinch a playoff berth," said Spruce Kings General Manager, Mike Hawes following the team's win Friday night in Trail. "When the season started our goal was to make the playoffs. So now that we have achieved that goal the second stage of our focus now is on the playoffs and securing a second or third seeding in the Division."

When looking at some of the aspects of change from the previous two seasons, perhaps the most notable is the number of wins. So far this season, the Spruce Kings have equaled the number of wins from the previous two seasons. Prince George started the year with that weighing on them as well as having the knowledge that only the top four teams would make the post season.

"We went in to the off season knowing that we had a lot of work to do to bring in players to make this a competitive team," said Hawes. "We maybe got lucky with a few players. We knew Paul De Jersey for example was going to be on the first line, but did we think he would be scoring leader in the League at this point in the season? Probably not, no, but that has been very beneficial for us."

"There are many other key acquisitions throughout the season," continued Hawes. "Michael Colantone has worked out well. The Ben Matthews trade we made last summer has worked out very well for us. The Fitzgerald triplets have turned into great assets for us and have improved their defensive game immensely with us. The Ty Swabb deal has really solidified our goaltending. The trade deadline deals (for Jarryd Ten Vaanholt and Zack Rassell) have made us an extremely deep team."

That depth showed on Friday night with six different goal scorers for the Prince George Spruce Kings and four players with multiple points including Jujhar Khaira and Chase Golightly with a goal and a pair of assists each. Paul De Jersey and Ben Woodley both added a pair of helpers in the game while eight more players contributed with single points in the 6-1 win.

After a scoreless first period, the Spruce Kings responded with five goals in the second period starting with Gerry Fitzgerald's 15th of the season two minutes in to the middle frame. That opening goal was followed up with three straight powerplay tallys including the eventual game winner that came off the stick of Chase Golightly from the point. That goal was scored 7 seconds after the Spruce Kings went on their second powerplay chance.

Michael Colantone was the recipient of a perfect pass from Jujhar Khaira who was set up behind the Smoke Eaters net. Colantone's 28th goal of the season came 48 seconds in to Prince George's third powerplay. Jujhar Khaira with two helpers to this point in the game, would get his 28th of the season 1:09 into the team's fourth powerplay after poking home a loose puck following a Paul De Jersey to Jarryd Ten Vaanholt scoring chance.

Myles Fitzgerald would add an even strength marker, his 17th of the season, before the end of the second period and Zack Rassell scored his 4th since becoming a member of the Spruce Kings in the third period to spot Prince George a 6-0 lead. A late penalty against the Spruce Kings led to the Trail Smoke Eaters lone goal of the game with less than two minutes to play in the third period. The goal ended Ty Swabb's shutout bid but wasn't enough to keep the netminder from improving his numbers in the BCHL.

The Spruce Kings have one more game in Trail on Saturday night and then a Sunday afternoon game in Vernon before returning home to finish off the season with a doubleheader against the Penticton Vees. As the General Manager puts it, the team can't be worried about what other teams are going to do, the players have to worry about what they can do in their final four games.

"Our work in the regular season isn't done yet," said Hawes. "Our first goal was to make the playoffs, now that we have done that we would like to secondarily finish has high as we can and get that second spot to gain home ice advantage."

"That's what we're thinking now sitting two points behind Merritt; we're going to have to do our work with a fairly tough schedule here on out. By no means is it going to be an easy task, but we have to put our nose to the grindstone and continue to play good hockey the way we have been and anything can happen."

Trail isn't about to go quietly knowing that Prince George is the only Interior Division team that they haven't been able to take points away from this season. The Vernon Vipers still have their eyes on a playoff spot and the Penticton Vees are going to want to run the table to the end of the season now that they are this close to doing just that.

Weekend Preview with Games in Trail and Vernon

With five games to go in the regular season, the Spruce Kings are poised to mark their return to the post season for the first time since 2009. All that stands in their way is a third consecutive three game weekend road trip with stops in Trail Friday and Saturday night and Vernon Sunday afternoon. To make it to the post season, the Spruce Kings need to pick up one win (two points) in their final five games or to see the Vernon Vipers lose once (even if it is in overtime).

The road trip to Trail is not an easy one and consumes most of one day just to drive there from Prince George. The Spruce Kings headed out on the road early Thursday morning, arriving at their hotel in Castlegar late Thursday night. Having been on this very same road trip just three weeks ago, the Spruce Kings hope they are in the same routine that saw them post back to back wins in a double header against the Smoke Eaters on February 10th and 11th.

The Trail Smoke Eaters have been out of the playoff picture for some time now, but maintain the belief that they can play a role in the post season by playing spoiler for teams looking to secure a playoff spot from 2nd through 4th place in the Interior Division. Currently sitting four points ahead of Prince George in second are the Merritt Centennials who had to come back against the Smoke Eaters to force overtime before being able to leave the Cominco arena with two points.

The Spruce Kings are perfect against Trail so far this season and they certainly hope to see that trend continue. The two teams are basically polar opposites in the Interior Division both in points and location. The Spruce Kings go in to the Comico Arena with a record of 30-19-24 to face a team that has six games left to play and currently holds a record of 11-37-1-5. In the five previous meetings the Spruce Kings have held their opposition to two or less goals every time but still need to earn those wins if they hope to sweep the season series against the Smoke Eaters.

On Wednesday night a depleted Trail roster jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on the visiting Merritt Centennials, but found they didn't have enough to go the distance with only 13 skaters going. It's not entirely clear what led to the five holes on the Smoke Eaters bench although the group has missed the last three games. The Prince George Spruce Kings are close to healthy with Cody Bardock now skating with the team during team practices; although he traveled with the team, Bardock is not expected in the lineup. There are a few other bruises, but nothing that should impact the twenty man game day roster.

Heading in to the contest, Paul De Jersey holds down top spot on the BCHL Leaderboard with 92 points (40G, 52A), but even he acknowledges the five game goal-less streak is having an impact on the sniper's confidence. If De Jersey can find a few more goals and a couple more helpers, he stands to take over three long standing Spruce Kings records. Bill Collins currently holds the mark for most goals in a season at 50 scored in 2001-01, Keenan Hopson finished the 2003-04 season with 100 points (34G, 66A) and Chris Stevens scored 8 game winning goals in 2004-05 - De Jersey has 7 GWGs.

For as much as De Jersey has fallen off his pace, the Fitzgerald triplets have done the opposite. Gerry scored both game winners during the last double header in Trail, while Leo and Myles Fitzgerald have maintained a point a game pace each for the past eight games. Jarryd Ten Vaanholt has also been contributing with 7 goals and 10 points in his last six games. Defensively Chase Golightly has contributed a point a game since the middle of January while helping to keep opposition shots down, along with the rest of the Spruce Kings blue line squad.

The beneficiary of the strong defensive presence has been Ty Swabb who has seen his numbers improve to become the third best in the league. With a goals against average of 2.44 and a save percentage of 91.8, Swabb is expected to get the start in goal Friday night against the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Game time is 7:30pm and can be picked up on the BCHL Pay-Per-View webcast from the BCHL website or for free with the internet game audio only feed accessible from the BCHL scoreboard page just before puck drop. The Spruce Kings road trip will continue with the second half of the double header in Trail Saturday night at 7:30pm and wrap up Sunday afternoon at 2pm in Vernon against the Vipers.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Magic Number

When you look at the BCHL standings you are starting to see an 'X' show up on the left hand margin indicating that teams have secured a playoff berth. For the Spruce Kings that hasn't happened in a couple of seasons, but it could as early as Friday when the Spruce Kings start a three game weekend with the first game of a double header in Trail against the Smoke Eaters.

Prior to the start of this season the BCHL made a few significant rule changes including the number of teams that would make it into the playoffs, the proverbial second season. Over the years the league has toyed with different concepts and at one point all but one team made it to the first round of the playoffs when the league consisted of 17 teams. When the league was reduced to 16 teams, following the exit of the Williams Lake Timberwolves, the league went with a system that saw a total of 14 teams make it to the playoffs. In that format seven teams from each division secured a playoff berth with the top team in each division receiving a first round bye.

This year the regular season was adjusted to start and finish later but that meant an adjustment to the playoff format. To accommodate the two weeks, the first round of the playoffs had to be dropped and that meant only the top four teams from each division would make it to the post season. This scheduling change is an absolute must in order to have a team come out of the league as BCHL Champions and be able to play in the Doyle Cup (scheduled to begin on April 20th) for the right to be the Pacific representative at the RBC Royal Bank Cup (May 5-13 in Humboldt, SK).

The task at hand for the Spruce Kings this season was to play better than .500 hockey and maintain a pace in the top half of the division. That is exactly what they have done to this date; with five games remaining, they have a record of 30-19-2-4 and have floated between 2nd and 5th in the Interior Division throughout the year. With tiebreakers taken in to consideration, the Spruce Kings need one win in their final five games or a Vernon Vipers loss in there final five.

The two teams will play each other Sunday afternoon in Vernon, but the Spruce Kings certainly hope it doesn't come down to that game to determine whether they make it in. Prince George starts this weekend with a double header in Trail against the Smoke Eaters, a team they have a record of 5-0 against this season. Vernon doesn't play until Saturday night and will have their hands full with the Westside Warriors.