Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One Goal Games

While Alistair McInnis was away for a late fall holiday, Allan Wishart did a great job filling in at the Prince George Free Press covering the local sports scene. This past weekend Wishart was in attendance as the Spruce Kings extended their win streak to six games and posted this article for the Wednesday issue of the local paper.

by Allan Wishart, Prince George Free Press

Liam Board (19) attracts some attention in front of the
Alberni Valley Bulldogs goal in Friday night's game

Even when the Spruce Kings win by more than one goal, it doesn't feel that way, says Dave Dupas.

"The Alberni Valley game was a one-goal game until the last few minutes," the Spruce Kings coach says of the 6-3 win Friday night at the Coliseum. "Coltyn Hansen scored to give us a two-goal lead and then he got the empty-netter."

Saturday, the Spruce Kings were right back to their one-goal ways, edging the West Kelowna Warriors 4-3 when Tyson Witala scored about two minutes into overtime.

The pair of wins gives the Spruce Kings six in a row, four of them by one goal.

"We'll keep taking them," Dupas says of the close wins. "We're finding ways to win, which is great. The other thing is it's somebody different stepping up each game. We're not relying on one or two players."

One player who did come in for special note from Dupas was 16 year-old goalie Liam McLeod, who got the start against Alberni Valley.

"Liam was playing against a team that scores a lot of goals and he held them off. He made some big saves when had to. That team, if they learn to play defense, they'll be tough because they can score."

Against West Kelowna, Dupas went back to Kirk Thompson and got exactly what he come to expect.

"Kirk keeps us in the game. He's very steady and he makes the saves when we need them."

Asked to name a couple of standouts from the weekend, Dupas paused.

"You'd have to go through the whole team. Everybody right now is doing what they're supposed to do. The penalty kill has been unbelievable and we're still blocking a lot of shots."

By the team's figures, they had more than 60 blocked shots in the two games, which Dupas says shows the team's dedication to playing hard at both ends.

"I wish we could win 3-0 every night, but that's not going to happen. There are some talented teams in this league and a lot of them can score goals."

The wins also moved the Spruce Kings into first place in the Mainland Division with 24 points, two ahead of the Chilliwack Chiefs, who have a game in hand. All five teams in the division are playing .500 or better so far this season. The Spruce Kings will see the two bottom teams this weekend when they travel to Langley (Friday) and Surrey (Saturday).

"This will be our fifth game against Langley already and all of them have been down there, so I guess we'll be seeing a lot of them up here as the goes along," Dupas says. "We've beaten them twice in overtime and they've beaten us twice by one goal."

"They're a physical team, so we can't let them establish that style. We have to get into out game."

While the Spruce Kings have beaten Surrey twice this year by three-goal margins, Dupas says this game could be closer.

"They didn't have a scorer before, but since they got Brady Shaw in a trade (with Coquitlam), he's been scoring a ton."

Shaw has four goals and six points in three games with the Eagles.

"We may go with a different game plan against them this time," Dupas says, "try to figure out a way to neutralize him."

The winning streak has also moved the Spruce Kings the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings for the first time this season. The Spruce Kings hold down the number 20 spot and are joined by BCHL foes Penticton (6) and Victoria (10), while Chilliwack received an Honourable Mention.


Kudos to Steve Ewen on a great article that appeared in the Province newspaper on Tuesday October 30th. We all remember seeing the highlight reel goal that gained national and international attention. After that game I spoke with Kirk Thompson and he then told me that he was okay with it and would do it again instead of watching it happen to somebody else.

I knew then that he was referring to Liam McLeod who had started that game. Thompson came in relief before the end of the first period and turned aside all but that one shot - a perfect shot with no room for error or hesitation. While talking with Kirk, I thought I would let things settle down a little before bringing up that story.

It is a great story of mentorship with Kirk taking as much pride in Liam's successes as he does in his own and the team's. Steve Ewen touches on that relationship in this story that appears on the Province newspaper's website and I have shared here for you.

Kirk Thompson has done nothing but win
after letting in widely viewed goal

by Steve Ewen, The Province

A funny thing happened to Kirk Thompson after being on the wrong end of perhaps the most viewed highlight in BCHL history.

He's kept winning. And winning. And winning.

The Prince George Spruce Kings netminder has been victorious in his five decisions since playing a supporting role on that last-second, 4-3 Langley Rivermen goal on Oct. 7 that starred the fancy hands of Austin Azurdia and the flashy phrasing of Rivermen play-by-play man Brandon Astle.

More than 90,000 people on YouTube have watched Azurdia toe-drag past Prince George defenceman Mitch Eden and beat Thompson glove-side, just under the crossbar, for the winner, and then listened to an obviously elated Astle bellow out things like, "Sports Centre, get it ready ... that's the highlight of the year!"

The clip has also run on Global TV, TSN, Yahoo.com's Puck Daddy blog and SI.com, among other spots.

Since then, all Thompson has done is turn away 138 of 147 shots directed his way (.939 save percentage) and helped steer the Spruce Kings to top spot in the Mainland Division, where they sit at 11-4-1-1.

To paraphrase Astle from that goal, this kid Thompson could run for mayor, if he keeps it up.

"I saw it everywhere," Thompson, 20, said of the Azurdia highlight. "All my buddies were texting me, all my teammates from the past. It was a great goal. You have to hand it to the guy."

It was the only marker Thompson gave up that night. He started the evening on the bench, but came on late in the first period after 16-year-old backup Liam McLeod allowed three goals on 11 shots. Thompson says that he’s glad it was him on the end of that play, instead of McLeod, because he’s well aware how hard, mentally, it can be on a young goalie in junior hockey.

He should know.

Two years ago, Thompson was 7-26-1, with a 3.91 goals against average and a .888 save percentage for the Spruce Kings. Last year, he moved to 15-14-1, with a 2.83 GAA and a .906 save percentage. This recent run has him at 10-3-1, with a 2.27 GAA and a .921 save percentage so far in 2012-13.

"I think I've built up a lot of confidence this year," said Thompson.

Now, he's looking to build up his resumé in order to land an NCAA scholarship. Other goalies near the top of the stats charts in the league have deals already — like Penticton Vees backstop Chad Katunar, who is off to Notre Dame; and Coquitlam Express netminder Cole Huggins, who has committed to Minnesota State.

"I need to keep doing what I'm doing," said Thompson, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Surrey native. "I'd like to think it's a matter of time before someone takes notice and wants to commit to me. I've had contact from a few teams, but I think everyone is waiting to see how I keep doing."


Monday, October 29, 2012

Luedtke, A Small Part of the Spruce Kings Wins

Citizen photo by Dave Mah
Jeremiah Luedtke (14) battles with Dustin Cave (22)

The following article on Jeremiah Luedtke and the Spruce Kings win on Saturday night is being reposted here from the Prince George Citizen's website. The interview with Jeremiah was done on Friday night prior to the game where he was the honourary captain for the Pink in the Rink game.

I do have to point out that I had to make a correction to the season record of all three teams from the original article to include the games played this past weekend. But also want to point out that she did a wonderful job in ensuring the use of the team's full name - Spruce Kings - throughout the article, thank you!

Sheri Lamb, Prince George Citizen staff

Small in stature Jeremiah Luedtke has learned to use his size to his advantage on the ice.

"I've always been small so I've gotten used to that so it doesn't really faze me," said the five-foot-eight forward for the Prince George Spruce Kings.

But it doesn't mean the 18-year-old is not secretly praying he takes after dad Jerry and has a late growth spurt. Jerry is six-foot-two.

For Spruce Kings head coach Dave Dupas the prospect of the shifty playmaker taking after his dad is music to the ears.

"If he grows he's going to be scary because he has an edge to him and great, great skill," said Dupas.

So far this season the B.C. Hockey League rookie forward has found himself a bit snake bitten in the offensive zone with only one goal and seven points through 17 games, but Dupas isn't too worried.

"He's had hard luck all year," said Dupas. "He's creating all kinds of chances for himself and I see him practice all the time and I know he can score - he hits the corners and he makes good moves - but in games right now it's just not going in for him.

"Eventually they will start to go in, he has that much talent and when they do, I think the floodgates are going to open," he added.

The floodgates opened a little Saturday night for Luedtke in the Spruce Kings 4-3 overtime win over the West Kelowna Warriors in front of 1,023 witnesses at the Coliseum. With the game tied at 2 midway through the third period, Luedtke picked up the puck left by linemate Chad Staley at the side of the Warriors' net, showed patience and threaded a perfect pass onto Justin Rai's stick for the go-ahead goal.

Luedtke has known Staley for years as the two Washington natives had played against each other for years before teaming up last season for the under-18 Wenatchee Wild in the North American Prospects Hockey League.

"We have really good chemistry together," said Luedtke. "We just hang out all the time and we've known each other for a while now and have played together a lot, our playing styles are the same."

Together with Rai, the threesome, also known as the Cascade Express after the metro train that passes through all their hometowns from Surrey to Lynnwood to Kennewick, have many fans on the edge of their seats when they take to the ice.

Last season, Luedtke played in 22 games for the Wild, notching nine goals and 16 points and had a goal in four playoff games. He knew the adjustment to the BCHL - where the players are bigger, faster and smarter - was going to be tough.

"You've just got to play your role and get used to playing on all lines because you're going to have to go through it," said Luedtke. "Because I'm a rookie I'm going to have to be a fourth liner and I'll get up to the second line or first line when I can."

The good news for the Spruce Kings (11-4-1-1) is every line has contributed so far this season, making ice times relatively even across all four lines. Saturday's overtime win over the Warriors (8-3-0-5) combined with the Chilliwack Chiefs (10-4-1-1) 5-1 loss in Vernon propelled the Spruce Kings into first place in the Mainland division.

Former BCMML Cariboo Cougar Seb Lloyd and Brent Lashuk gave the Warriors a 2-0 advantage but the Spruce Kings fought back Saturday to tie the game after 40 minutes on goals by Liam Board and captain Trevor Esau.

After Luedtke fed Rai to put the Spruce Kings up 3-2, Brennan Clark tied the game for the Warriors to send the game into the four on four, five-minute overtime period. Tyson Witala banged home a rebound off defenceman Mitch Eden's shot to give the home side their sixth consecutive win.

"When everyone's contributing coach puts us all out there," said Luedtke. "It's great to see everyone playing and everyone scoring."

National Rankings

For the first time in their in the BCHL, the Prince George Spruce Kings have garnered the attention of the CJHL appearing on their weekly rankings. The team has been flying under the radar for most of the season even after picking up wins against other ranked teams around the BCHL.

This is truly a feel good moment for the team and the city that has been rallying around the Spruce Kings. The players and the coaches are all taking it in stride and quietly reveling in the spotlight but also remaining grounded in their resolve to continue with their game plan.

"We didn't start the season looking to be ranked, we want to be the best team on the ice in each of our games and that is our focus," was one of the quotes from Dave Dupas when asked about the team's current record and performance. "The rankings are just a byproduct of the hard work of the guys on the ice."

"Falling off those rankings will be easier than climbing up," added the captain, Trevor Esau. "We want to climb up those rankings and that is going to be harder now."

Esau has seen the evolution of the team from a non-playoff team to its current status as a ranked team and wants to make sure his final year of junior hockey remains a positive one. "It is an honour to be playing for the Spruce Kings right now," Esau told me. "We all want to make something of our time in Prince George and for the city that we call home during the hockey season."

Below is the official press release from the Spruce Kings following the release of the National Rankings by the CJHL on October 29th.


PRINCE GEORGE, BC – The latest Top 20 rankings of the Canadian Junior Hockey League were released earlier today with the Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) ranked twentieth in the nation.

Currently on a six game winning streak with a season record of 11-4-1-1, the Spruce Kings are leading the Mainland Division and are third overall in the BCHL. This is the first appearance in the CJHL Top Twenty for the Spruce Kings this season and puts them on the list with Penticton Vees (6), Victoria Grizzlies (10) and Chilliwack Chiefs (HM).

The CJHL Rankings are comprised each week in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting and are based upon a variety of factors including the league in which the teams belong to as well as recent regular season results.

The following are the CJHL Top 20 (As of Oct. 29, 2012) with the league they are members of in brackets.

1. Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
2. Truro Bearcats (MHL)
3. Trenton Golden Hawks (OJHL)
4. Melville Millionaires (SJHL)
5. OCN Blizzard (MJHL)
6. Penticton Vees (BCHL)
7. Flin Flon Bombers (SJHL)
8. Yorkton Terriers (SJHL)
9. Minnesota Wilderness (SIJHL)
10. Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
11. Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL)
12. Winnipeg Blues (MJHL)
13. Newmarket Hurricanes (OJHL)
14. Whitecourt Wolverines (AJHL)
15. Summerside Western Capitals (MHL)
16. Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
17. St. Michael's Buzzers (OJHL)
18. Saint Jerome Pantheres (LHJAAAQ)
19. Smiths Falls Bears (CCHL)
20. Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL)

Honourable Mention: Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL), Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL), Swan Valley Stampeders (MJHL), Nepean Raiders (CCHL), Yarmouth Jr. 'A' Mariners (MHL).

The CJHL is an amalgamation of 10 Junior A hockey leagues from across Canada. Official Release from the CJHL.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spruce Kings Shake Off Warriors

Jeremiah Luedtke (14) was the Spruce Kings
Honourary Captain for their Breast Cancer Awareness Game

The Coliseum was shaking twice on Saturday night, first from the earthquake and again after Tyson Witala's overtime winner for the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Witala buried a rebound off a Mitch Eden shot at 2:06 of the extra session to give the Spruce Kings a 4-3 win over the visiting West Kelowna Warriors and extend their season-high winning streak to six.

The Spruce Kings overcame a 2-0 deficit then built a 3-2 lead only to see the game go to extra time. In the end the two points gives Prince George sole possession of first place in the Mainland Division as the second month of the regular season draws to a close.

The Warriors got on the board first, with Prince George product Seb Lloyd lifting the puck over Spruce Kings goaltender Kirk Thompson at 16:30 of the opening period. Lloyd, who had a vocal cheering section, was named the game's third star.

West Kelowna opened up a two-goal advantage early in the second when Brent Lashuk beat Thompson with a high shot at 3:50. The Warriors also had a big advantage on the shot counter at that point and appeared poised to hand the Spruce Kings their first regulation loss on home ice this season.

The Prince George power play had something to say about that. In their one and only chance with the man advantage, the Spruce Kings wasted little time with Treasure Trove Casino first star of the game Liam Board taking a feed from second star Shayne Morrissey and beating Warriors starter Garrett Rockafellow at 5:06.

Shortly after that the building shook as Prince George felt some effects of a West Coast earthquake. The game didn't stop during the slight shake, although the lights at the top of the Coliseum were swaying noticeably.

Moments later the Spruce Kings drew even as Morrissey won an offensive-zone face-off back to captain Trevor Esau, who blasted a shot through Rockafellow's five-hole. The tying goal came at 9:26 of the middle stanza.

Perhaps the prettiest goal of the night came at 12 minutes of the third period as the home side took their first lead of the game. College Heights Dairy Queen player of the game Chad Staley drove to the net, but the puck was knocked off his stick, but it went right to Jeremiah Luedtke. Standing just to the left of Rockafellow, nobody would have blamed Luedtke for trying his luck with a shot, but the Spruce Kings honorary captain was patient and spotted the trailing Justin Rai. The pass was perfect and Rai blasted home the go-ahead goal.

The Warriors didn't go away easily with Brennan Clark beating Thompson at 15:41 to tie the game 3-3 and force extra time.

In the extra session it was Eden, the Fortis Energy player of the game, who set up Witala's heroics. The Spruce Kings defenceman has never been afraid to join the rush and with the extra space in the 4-on-4 situation, used his speed to drive to the net.

Although his backhand was stopped, Witala sent the crowd home happy. Thompson finished with 24 saves, while Rockafellow had 19.

The Spruce Kings are on the road next weekend, heading back to the Lower Mainland for games in Langley and Surrey. The next home game is Nov. 10 when the Fitzgerald triplets and the Victoria Grizzlies visit the Castle.

Game Preview: vs West Kelowna Warriors

Pink in the Rink

There are things that transcend the game and certainly this is one of them. Breast cancer is the leading form of cancer among women and can strike men as well. Minimizing risks, finding preventive measures and ultimately finding a cure are all very important steps in the elimination of this deadly disease.

Tonight the Canadian Cancer Society and the Prince George Spruce Kings are asking you what your One Thing is that you can do to prevent cancer. Since the start of the season the players have participated in the program identifying many lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce the risk.

It can be as simple as going for a walk every day, eating healthier, performing a self-examination or being checked out by your doctor. The key is to know what you can do every day to reduce your risk of cancer. Get a Game Plan from the Canadian Cancer Society with tips on their website and tonight in the arena.

Along with helping to raise awareness about breast cancer tonight, the Spruce Kings will also be looking to extend their current winning streak to six games after doubling up the Alberni Valley Bulldogs last night 6-3. The first star of the game was the youngster member of the squad, Liam McLeod in his third BCHL start picked up his first Junior ‘A’ win turning aside 34 of 37 shots from the high scoring ‘dogs.

Tonight the team will take on another high flying team in the West Kelowna Warriors. Although they had their wings clipped a little last night dropping a 4-1 decision to the Penticton Vees, the Warriors are still a very dangerous team with the League’s highest goals for average. Scoring on a pace of 3.87 goals a game, the Warriors are also one of the stingiest teams with a 2.47 goals against average.

The Warriors are also a good team on the road with twice as many wins away from their own rink. The only big variable left to answer is how the overnight trip into Prince George will affect the team. The Warriors arrived early in the morning and will have their system out of sync with only a few hours of sleep in the hotel bed before getting into game mode.

The Spruce Kings have shown great resiliency through the first third of the season and have played some of their best games against the other top teams in the League. Making sure the boys are ready to go after a big emotional win last night will be key for success tonight.

Game time is 7pm and fans are encouraged to wear pink to the rink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Bring your radios as well and listen to the call of the game with Ron St. Clair, Todd Doherty and Peter James on 93.1 CFIS-FM. If you can't make it to the game you can listen to the free online audio broadcast on CFISFM.com or watch the full broadcast online through FASTHOCKEY.com.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spruce Kings Extend Winning Streak To Five

Liam McLeod (35) was instrumental in the Spruce Kings win
Friday night and picked up his first win in the BCHL
(photo courtesy LG Photography)

Even by Latrell Charleson's strict definition, the Prince George Spruce Kings are on a winning streak.

The Spruce Kings won their fifth straight game Friday night, downing the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs 6-3 at the Coliseum. Prior to the game Charleson, a Spruce Kings defencemen tweeted that four wins could be a fluke, but five is a streak.

The fifth straight win came thanks to what's become a staple of the 2012-13 Spruce Kings - offence from up and down the lineup and excellent goaltending. The six goals came from five different players on three different lines and with Kirk Thompson getting a well deserved night off between the pipes rookie Liam McLeod recorded his first BCHL win with a 34-save effort and was named Treasure Cove Casino first star.

The Spruce Kings scored within the first three minutes of each period and never trailed during the game.

Alberni Valley was actually taking the play to the Spruce Kings in the early going of the first period but Bryant Christian opened the scoring for Prince George at 2:34 - albeit against the run of play. He took a feed from FortisBC Energy Player of the Game Sean Landrey and bolted down the wing firing a shot over the glove of Bulldogs starter Brad Rebagliati. Brad Ryan also picked up an assist.

The lead was shortlived as just 50 seconds later Jared Wilson's long shot beat a screened McLeod to even the score at 1-1.

The Spruce Kings took the lead for good late in the first as Cameron Lawson tipped in Brad Ryan's point shot on the power play at 18:05. Lawson was a game time decision with a lower-body injury, but it didn't seem to slow him down as he was force all three periods and garnered second star honours.

The Spruce Kings added to their lead early in the second as Shayne Morrissey used his great hands to bang home a shot from a sharp angle at the side of the net at 2:23. Liam Board and Skylar Pacheco provided the assists.

The 3-1 lead held through two periods, but just 1:09 into the third Tyson Witala made it a three-goal lead with a controversial tally. After a shot by Lyndon Martell was stopped and juggled by Rebagliati, Witala crashed the crease, found the loose puck and deposited it past the goalie just as he was deposited on top of the goalie.

The goal was immediately ruled good by the official behind the net, but it took a lengthy discussion by the four men in stripped shirts to confirm it would stand. Martell and Coltyn Hansen got the helpers.

The Bulldogs rallied in the middle stages of the third, scoring twice in a three-minute period to get back within a goal. First the game's third star Ryan Lough beat McLeod with a power-play goal the Prince George netminder didn't have a chance on at 6:13. Then at 9:05, McLeod got a piece - but not a big enough piece - of Evan Tironese's shot as the puck trickled in.

The rookie netminder shut the door from there and got a pair of insurance markers from Hansen, the College Heights Dairy Queen player of the game.

Hansen made a nice individual effort at 12:33, cutting out from the corner, beating a defenceman and Rebagliati to restore the two-goal cushion. Rebagliati finished the night with 30 saves.

Hansen added another goal into an empty net at 19:09.

With the win the Spruce Kings improved to 10-4-1-1 and kept pace with Chilliwack for first place in the Mainland Division.

The Spruce Kings are back in action on Saturday night when the West Kelowna Warriors visit the Castle.

Game Preview: vs Alberni Valley Bulldogs

Spruce Kings will be looking to keep the celebrations going

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs make their one and only regular season visit to the Castle tonight to face the Prince George Spruce Kings in a Coastal Conference matchup. The Bulldogs playing out of the Island Division currently sit in second spot with 17 points while the Spruce Kings are second in the Mainland Division with 20 points.

The Spruce Kings are currently riding a four game win streak that started two weekends ago against another Island Division team in the Powell River Kings. The Bulldogs haven’t fared as well in their past four games suffering a pair of regulation losses and another two in overtime.

The Bulldogs are a bit of an enigma having scored the second most goals in the League with 54 but having also allowed the second most goals with 64. When compared as an average with the Spruce Kings, the Bulldogs come out ahead 3.38 to 3.33 but the Spruce Kings goals against average is much better with a 2.67 compared to the Bulldogs 4.00.

Numbers aside, the Bulldogs are certainly not a team that can be taken lightly with one of the most efficient power plays in the League and the most power play goals scored to date. Discipline is always a key factor in any game and the Spruce Kings have been watching their special teams numbers improve over the past few games, especially on the penalty kill.

The Spruce Kings are as close to healthy as they have been at any point this season with Lyndon Martell, Tyson Witala and Trevor Esau all returning tonight. Tanner Fjellstrom has been skating with the team during practices and is almost ready to return to game action. David London remains at his home in Kelowna rehabbing an injury suffered in the preseason.

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been hit hard by the injury bug and have four players placed on the Injured Reserve List. That has turned into an opportunity for four additional players to suit up for the Bulldogs and play in the BCHL when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Tonight’s game will be attended by Super Dog of the SPCA as he gets the message out for pet safety during Halloween and the arrival of colder weather in Prince George. The local SPCA is one of the busiest with 2200 animals moving through the shelter last year and being on pace to eclipse those numbers this year. The SPCA is fully funded with financial contributions from the public as well as donations of pet food and supplies.

Game time is 7:00pm, fans are encouraged to bring their radios to the game and listen to the call of the game with Ron St. Clair on 93.1 CFIS-FM. If you can't make it to the game, a free online audio broadcast is available from CFISFM.com and a pay-per-view full broadcast on FASTHOCKEY.com.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Her Story

Katy Luedtke is a 7 year breast cancer survivor

The Prince George Spruce Kings will be recognizing women's health issues and Breast Cancer Awareness month with their annual Pink in the Rink game on Saturday October 27. The players will be dressed with pink accessories on their normal game day uniforms and the Canadian Cancer Society will be on hand to help raise awareness for the prevention of cancer.

Also attending the game will be Katy Luedtke, a breast cancer survivor and step-mom of current Spruce Kings player Jeremiah Luedtke. Luedtke's story is one that is shared by many women and accounts for almost 25% of all cancer in women. First discovering a lump in 2005, Luedtke tells her story of being diagnosed with cancer and the journey she went on to become cancer free as well as the life style changes to prevent the return of cancer.

On Saturday night, Katy Luedtke will be the Spruce Kings honouree of the night and will be dropping the puck to help raise awareness of cancer risks and prevention of the disease. Katy is very passionate about getting the message out there and being proactive in the cause to find a cure. She has particpated in three Susan G Komen 60 mile walks personally raising over $20,000 and participating on team that raised $225,800 this past September.

Katy will be wearing "lots of pink" proudly on Saturday night and will be sharing her story in person. Prior to the game I was able to sit down and talk with Katy. Here is her story.

download audio file

After the interview, Katy Luedtke sent me an email thanking me for the chance to share her story. She also added some more information to our interview (which I shortened to the version above). Because this is her story, I thought it only relevant to add her email here as well.

I was diagnosed in 2005 at the age of 42 with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer that was HER2 Positive and finished my treatment in 2010 the day before my 1st 60 Mile 3 Day walk when I was then considered in remission. I am now a 7 year survivor.

Katy Luedtke on her 60 Mile Walk

I had a lumpectomy to have the lump removed, then 4 months of Chemo, 7 weeks of radiation, 1 year of Herceptin and then 5 years of Tamoxifen via a daily pill for my full treatment over 5 years. Tamoxifen acts like a key broken off in the lock that prevents any other key from being inserted. Preventing estrogen from binding to its receptor. Hence breast cancer cell growth is blocked. Herceptin is for the treatment of early-stage breast cancer that is Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2 – positive (HER2) which I was. I was given this treatment because my invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor negative diagnosis as well.

I am Jeremiah’s stepmom and met Jerry, Jeremiah’s dad, in early 2006 when I was still undergoing my Herceptin treatments and he would come and sit with me when I had my Herceptin treatments. We met in 2006 and married in 2008 and I’ve known Jeremiah since he was 11.

The Team that I am on for the Susan G Komen 3 Day 60 Mile walk is called “Kindred Spirits.” We raised $225,800 in 2012 alone. In the first 2 years we raised over $200,000 each year. Since I’ve been on the team, over the past 3 years, we have raised over $650,000 and I personally have raised over $20,000 in the past 5 years supporting Breast Cancer.

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is the most widely known, largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the United States. Since its inception in 1982, Komen has invested nearly $2 Billion for breast cancer research, education, advocacy, health services and social support programs in the U.S. and through partnerships in more than 50 countries.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Win in the Express Lane

Coltyn Hansen (10) drives hard to the net
on the Spruce Kings first goal scored by Matthew Bissett

Who needs to carry a lead for the most of the game? Certainly not the Spruce Kings this past weekend when they posted a pair of wins with a combined lead time of 1:19. That time was posted on Saturday night when the Spruce Kings erased a 1-0 deficit early in the third period and then scored again late to capture two points in a 2-1 win over the Coquitlam Express.

Twenty four hours after posting a 5-4 win in overtime after answering four one goal deficits to the Langley Rivermen in a game they never led at all, the Spruce Kings were back at in Coquitlam against the 13th best team in the nation. The Express went with a fast paced game plan that seemed to catch the Spruce Kings by surprise and left them in their own end for much of the first half of the period.

The Spruce Kings would start to claw back with chances and shots as the period wore on but it would be another pressure attack by the Express that would open the scoring at exactly the 16 minute mark. The Express were able to force a turnover inside the Spruce Kings end while still setup on the attack. The puck came back to Beau Orser on the right point who stepped off the wall and snapped a rising shot through a screen in front of Kirk Thompson. The puck may have hit something on its way as it found the space between the shoulder and the cross bar to turn the goal light on.

Despite what the fanzone shows on the BCHL website, the shots were even after twenty minutes at 13 a-piece. In the second period the Spruce Kings were able to respond to the speed and passing of the Coquitlam Express and would start creating more quality scoring chances of their own. The best came midway through the second period when Coltyn Hansen burst in over the blue line and fired a shot labeled for the far side that Cole Huggins was just able to get a blocker on.

The second period would solve nothing and the teams would again return to the dressing rooms with the home team holding onto their 1-0 lead. Prince George would pick up in the third where they left off in the second period and it would be an unlikely player that would put the Spruce Kings on the board 95 seconds into the final frame.

With all the injuries on the Spruce Kings roster over the past couple of weeks, the team opted to go with an affiliate player in the lineup for Saturday's game. Matthew Bissett showed up fresh off a 4-2 win from the night before where he was instrumental scoring twice and adding an assist for the Ridge Meadow Flames. Bissett came in eager to go and showed promise early earning a regular shift with lots of ice time alongside Hansen and Ryan Keis.

In an amazing display of speed Hansen flew down the right side wall in front of both benches causing whiplash as the players turned their heads to watch the twenty year old turn an Express defenceman inside out as he cut hard to the net. Hansen was stopped on the play but the puck came out to the top of the crease for Bissett to snap home his first goal in the BCHL and pull the Spruce Kings even with their opponents.

The goal energized a bench that believes fully in themselves and despite so many setbacks have always shown a never give up approach on every shift. The Spruce Kings continued to pressure the Coquitlam Express who continued to get chances of their own only to be turned aside every time by Kirk Thompson.

One line that seemed to be getting chances but no luck on the night was the line of Cameron Lawson, Shayne Morrissey and Liam Board. The trio had glorious scoring opportunities and would have had multiple points each had it not been for sticks in the lanes and the iron goal posts. One night after the hockey gods redeemed Mitch Eden they came to game again this time for the top line.

Certainly nobody can say that the Spruce Kings don't work hard every shift and this shift was a perfect example of that as all three players worked at getting the puck to the net. Just before the puck was poked under Huggins, all three were within a stick length of the crease. The last player to touch it was Lawson who scored his eighth of the season at 18:41 giving the Spruce Kings their first lead of the game.

Most of the remaining 1:19 was played all on the Spruce Kings side of the ice. Having already learned the hard way that you don't ease up no matter how much or how little time remains on the clock, the Spruce Kings called a timeout after an icing just to give the players on the ice a breather and a reminder. Two more blocked shots later and the buzzer would sound and the Spruce Kings would skate away with the first set of two points against the Coquitlam Express.

The teams will play each other another seven times this season with the next matchup coming up in December when the Express come to Prince George for a double header on December 8th and 9th. The Spruce Kings will now turn their attention to a pair of games in the Coliseum this weekend starting with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday night followed by the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday night.

On Friday night, fans will have a chance to win tickets to see Ceasar Milan in Prince George on November 11th and on Saturday night the Spruce Kings will be recognizing Women's Health and honouring Breast Cancer Awareness Month with their Pink in the Rink game. The Canadian Cancer Society will be on hand to share information and give out prizes and fans will have a chance to win more tickets to see Ceasar Milan as well as Charlie Daniels.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Game Preview: at Coquitlam Express

Coming off a 5-4 overtime win last night in Langley, the Spruce Kings turn their attention to the Coquitlam Express and the first meeting of the season with this Mainland Division opponent. The Spruce Kings and the Express have been battling each other for top spot in the Mainland Division since the opening weekend and currently share that top spot with the Chilliwack Chiefs (the only other Divisional opponent Prince George has yet to faceoff against).

The Coquitlam Express have started out the season strong opening with a pair of shutout victories to take early season leads in many categories. Currently sitting 13th in the CJHL National Rankings, the Express have been arguably the most consistent team in the Coastal Conference with a record of 8-3-1-0. The 17 points is one fewer than the Prince George Spruce Kings but they have also played two fewer games.

Averaging 3.17 goals a game, the Express have scored 13 more goals than they have allowed and are currently on a two game winning streak. If there is a concern with the numbers for Coquitlam, it comes on home ice. The Express have missed out on only a single point while on the road with a 5-0-1-0 record but are .500 in the Poirier Sport & Leisure Complex (3-3-0-0).

The home of the Coquitlam Express is the Poirier Sport & Leisure Complex located at 633 Poirier Street in Coquitlam, BC. The original building was built in 1973 and underwent a renovation in 2009 that saw the seating increase from 1700 to 2200 for the NHL size rink. The Express started in Coquitlam in 2001 but moved to Burnaby after four seasons due to concerns for the original building over parking and limited spaces.

The Express made Burnaby their hometown for five seasons, bringing home a National Championship during that time. Their most famous and recognizable player from that era was Kyle Turris who was the highest drafted player to come out of the BCHL selected third overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Even with all of that the team did not find Burnaby to be a financially viable market and moved back to Coquitlam into the newly renovated arena.

The Coquitlam Express have a strong tie back to Prince George with minor hockey product, Darcy Rota still very much involved with the team as the President and League Govenor. Rota's start in hockey came in Prince George and although he never played for the Spruce Kings, some say the creation of the Spruce Kings hockey team was to provide a new level of hockey for Rota and the other high end players moving through the system.

As mentioned earlier, the Spruce Kings and the Express have been back and forth at the top of the Mainland Division this season. This parity has been going on for a few years including a couple of seasons where neither team made the post season to today where this game becomes a battle for top spot in the Division and potentially second overall in the League.

The strength of the Express may very well be between the pipes with Cole Huggins. The 20 year-old three-year vet of the BCHL has seen his numbers improve year over year going from a 3.55 goals against average two years ago to a 2.01 this season. His save percentage has also improved from an 89.9 to 94.3 and already this season has posted a pair of shutout wins to sit with a 7-1-1 record heading into tonight's game.

Leading the Express offensively is returning forward John Siemer with 5 goals and 11 assists in 12 games. Also up there is Alexander Kerfoot (6G, 9A in 15 games) who gained notoriety in the BCHL last season and was drafted in the fifth round 150th overall by the New Jersey Devils. Drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2009, Kerfoot opted for the educational route and is now committed to play for Harvard University in 2013.

Heading into the weekend, the Coquitlam Express were involved in a trade with the Surrey Eagles that sees Brandon Morley and Brady Shaw swap jerseys. Shaw played his first game with the Eagles last night and was instrumental in his new team's come from behind win over the Vernon Vipers scoring a pair of goals. Morley will play in his first game with the Express tonight carrying a record of 0 goals and 5 assists in 11 games with him. Morley is considered to be a strong physical player and has already played in a pair of games against the Spruce Kings.

Prince George comes into the game riding a three game win streak despite being short a handful of players in those three games. David London has yet to play his first game with his new team and Tanner Fjellstrom has gotten into one so far. Lyndon Martell has not been cleared to play since being hit in the head in a game against the Langley Rivermen on October 6th. Trevor Esau and Tyson Witala will miss their fourth consecutive game tonight and are resting back in Prince George.

The Spruce Kings will have a pair of affiliate players in the lineup tonight to help fill up the game day roster. Robert Zadra will suit up for his fifth game with the Spruce Kings on the blue line. Zadra has been able to fill the void on the back end and has been getting more comfortable every game out.

Matthew Bissett will join the Spruce Kings tonight as an AP from the Ridge Meadow Flames. In a game played last night, Bissett earned first star honours after scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist in a 4-2 win over the Richmond Sockeyes. The points improve the players stats to better than a point a game (6G, 5A in 10 games).

The Spruce Kings win last night was thanks in no small part to Coltyn Hansen and Justin Rai, who both scored a pair of goal, but also Sean Landrey who was instrumental on the game winning goal scored by Mitch Eden in the overtime period. Landrey's go-hard approach to the game last night led to the Spruce Kings third powerplay of the game and the fourth tying goal scored by Hansen 16 seconds after the penalty expired.

In the absence of some of the key players, many others have been stepping up and getting the job done for Prince George. To find the same success tonight, the same game plan will have to be used. Game time is 7pm with the game broadcast live on 93.1 CFIS-FM. A free online audio only broadcast is available from the community radio station's website - CFIS-FM.com and there is also a pay-per-view broadcast available from Fasthockey.com.

Following the game, the team will head home on a chartered bus from Premier Pacific Coast Coach. The charter bus company based out of Burnaby has been able to get the team around this weekend after the Spruce Kings team bus was involved in a minor accident. The team bus will have to stay down in the Vancouver area for a complete inspection but is expected to be cleared to drive back to Prince George later in the week.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mitch Eden Scores Overtime Winner

Sean Landrey (18) heads over to start the celebration of
Mitch Eden's overtime winning goal vs the Langley Rivermen
photo courtesy Garrett James Photography

Call it a goal the hockey gods felt they owed Mitch Eden if you like, but for sure the goal changed things for the Spruce Kings on Friday night. In a game that the visitors never led in, it was Eden that buried the overtime winner giving the Spruce Kings a 5-4 victory over the Langley Rivermen.

The Spruce Kings found themselves down a goal four times on the night, answering back every time before finally skating away with the two points. The first goal came from Matt Ustaski just five minutes in giving the Rivermen their first lead of the game. That lead lasted 6:28 before Coltyn Hansen was given a gift and made no mistake burying his fourth of the season to tie the game 1-1 at 12:22.

The score and the shots were extremely close after twenty minutes with the Spruce Kings having a slight 14-13 advantage on shots and a 4-2 lead on scoring chances. One of the best may have been Jake LeBrun standing on the far side of the crease waiting for a pass out of the corner from Hansen. The puck ended up going off the toe of LeBrun's stick and the rookie couldn't find the puck in time for a shot on goal.

Sean Landrey also had a glorious scoring opportunity as he was sent in all alone and used a forehand-backhand move to slide the puck to the far side only to watch it go off the toe of the netminder. Other scoring chances would come from Hansen and Cameron Lawson who was drawing a crowd every time he touched the puck.

In the second period it was the Langley Rivermen again that scored first when Mario Puskarich finished off a 2-on-1 play putting the puck off the goal post and in past Kirk Thompson. That lead would last 4:24 before the Cascade Express Line went to work scoring a baseball like goal off the stick of Justin Rai. Jeremiah Luedtke started the play getting the puck behind the net for Chad Staley who bunted the puck up to the slot and a waiting Rai who swung at the puck in mid air, batting it into the net for his fifth of the season.

The second period would end with the teams tied 2-2 on the score clock and 26-26 on the shot clock. A total of four goal posts were also hit that never counted as shots but could have opened this game right up. The first was Trevor Cope who found himself in all alone on Thompson and ran the goal post on the blocker side. The other three all came on one Spruce Kings power play. Cameron Lawson found iron and then Shayne Morrissey rang a shot of both posts on the same shift.

In the third period, the Spruce Kings suffered two big setbacks beginning with a bad luck goal that saw Ryan Keis swat the puck into his own net. The Spruce Kings would get that one back when Justin Rai would score his second of the night and sixth of the season unassisted. Before that goal could be counted, the Langley Rivermen skated down the ice on a 3-on-2 finishing the tic-tac-toe play with a tap in on the far side of the net for Ben Greiner.

That lead would last the longest for the Rivermen as they held off the Spruce Kings for over 10 minutes including a full two minutes while Prince George was on their third man advantage of the game. Sixteen seconds after a penalty to Trevor Cope for holding onto Landrey, Hansen would come out of the corner and fight his way through traffic to slip the puck past James Barr and off the inside of the far goal post.

There were some nervous times for both teams in the dying minutes of regulation with both teams getting glorious chances to end the game before overtime. Both Thompson and Barr were sharp on the night and were able to get the game to extra time with Barr having the harder time. After sixty minutes the Spruce Kings were out shooting Langley by a 39-33 margin.

In the first overtime period and perhaps a little surprisingly or perhaps as recognition for their hard work through the game, Dave Dupas send Bryant Christian and Sean Landrey over the wall. The pair would find the puck and take it on a scoring chance. Landrey started the play only to have his shot stopped and turned aside but in the confusion of bodies looking for the loose puck it was the trailer on the play that would find it.

Mitch Eden had just come over the boards himself and followed the play into the offensive zone. Seeing the puck laying there, Eden picked it up and fired it over the bodies and the goaltender to score his second of the season and give the Spruce Kings their second overtime win of the season against the Langley Rivermen.

The goal keeps the offensive defenceman at the top of the Spruce Kings leader board with 2 goals and 13 assists for 15 points. After the game, Spruce Kings assistant coach, Brad Rihela said he wasn't superstitious at all but felt it was the hockey gods rewarding Eden for his hard work all season and for being the player victimized the last time these two teams met.

The Spruce Kings poured off the bench afterwards with absolute elation reigning supreme. After everything the team has been through with the bus going off the road and the long list of injured players, the win was a sweet one. The Spruce Kings will now prepare for their first meeting of the season against the Coquitlam Express, a team that sat idle on Friday night. The game goes at 7pm from the Poirier Sport & Leisure Complex in Coquitlam.

Game Preview: at Langley Rivermen

Spruce Kings will be looking to put recent adversities
behind them for tonight's game vs the Langley Rivermen

It wasn't the prettiest ride into Langley, but the Spruce Kings are all in their weekend home base for a pair of games against the Langley Rivermen and the Coquitlam Express. While en route, the team bus was involved in an incident that saw it catch a soft shoulder and have the back end slip into the ditch. After a few tense moments and a soggy wait in the rain, the players were transported to their hotel and the bus to a shop.

Certainly that wasn't supposed to be the story heading into the fourth meeting of the season between these two teams. Come from behind wins and highlight reel goals should have provided the content of pregame speeches, interviews and conversations. Fans wondering if there would ever be a sense of rivalry between these two teams can rest assured that there is one shaping up nicely.

The very first meeting of the season was on the first weekend of the season when the two teams met at the BCHL Showcase. In that game the Spruce Kings had to erase a 3-0 Langley Rivermen lead in the second period and still overcome a 5-3 deficit in the third period to force overtime. In the extra frame, Lyndon Martell became the hero putting the winning goal into the back of the net to complete the come-from-behind win.

Two weekends ago, the Spruce Kings found themselves in the Langley Events Centre for the first time for a pair of games against the major tenants. In the first game, the Spruce Kings opened the scoring and also had a 2-1 lead in the third period. The Rivermen stormed back to win that game 3-2 with a pair of goals less than two minutes apart.

The trend of the team trailing for most of the game coming out on top appeared to be playing out in the Sunday afternoon matinee game. After the Rivermen built up a 3-0 lead, Brad Ryan was able to get one back before the end of the first. Then it would take a pair by Justin Rai less than a minute apart late in the third period to put the teams on even terms tied 3-3.

Unfortunately for Prince George, the time did not count down fast enough for the Spruce Kings to force overtime. Instead Austin Azurdia found just enough time to pick up the puck through the neutral zone, enter the Spruce Kings end and flip a shot into the back of the net. The goal came just before the end of regulation and the highlight video went viral showing up on TSN, ESPN and many other sports shows.

Since then the Spruce Kings showed that they had recovered, posting back-to-back wins over the Powell River Kings (2-1) and the Surrey Eagles (3-0). The pair of wins also earned Kirk Thompson top honours being named the Gong Show BCHL Player of the Week. The wins also came with some key players out of the lineup with Lyndon Martell, Trevor Esau and Tyson Witala joining Tanner Fjellstrom and David London on the injured list.

The injury woes continue for the Spruce Kings who will be without those five players again this weekend. To help with the short bench, the Spruce Kings will be looking to add a pair of affiliate players to the roster. Matthew Bissett from the Ridge Meadow Flames and Daniel Tait from the Richmond Sockeyes are set to don the Crown to help fill up the front end.

Bissett is currently leading the Flames with 4 goals and 4 assists in 9 games. In nine games with the Sockeyes, Tait has scored 7 goals and added 8 assists which is third best on the team. The APs are expected to play only one game each with Tait penciled in for Friday night versus the Rivermen and Bissett on Saturday night when the Spruce Kings take on the Coquitlam Express for the first time this season.

All things considered, the Spruce Kings have shown great resiliency this season and answered adversity well. This weekend will put the team to the test again after having dealt with the fallout of the highlight reel goal and now a few shaken nerves. The game gets underway at 7:15pm from the Langley Events Centre. Ron Gallo will have the call of the game on 93.1 CFIS-FM with free audio available online at www.cfisfm.com and the pay-per-view broadcast on Fasthockey.com.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Annual Kidney Walk

Tracey (donor) and Dan Eyles (recipient)
were the honorees at the Annual Kidney Walk

On Sunday October 14, 2012 all of the players from the Prince George Spruce Kings attended the Annual Kidney Walk to help raise funds, awareness and support for those affected by kidney disease. The game played the night before was in honour of the event with members of the local organization on hand to promote the walk. At the game, Tracey Eyles dropped the ceremonial puck to recognize her unselfish act of donating a kidney to her father.

At the walk, the Spruce Kings were recognized for their efforts of giving back to the community that they play in and received a round of applause when introduced by MLA Shirley Bond. Although the VIPs at the walk were Tracey and Dan Eyles, the Spruce Kings were made to feel very special as well by everyone in attendance.

On Wednesday, the Prince George Free Press published an article in their paper about the event and the Spruce Kings involvement. That full article has been reposted below with thanks to Teresa Mallam and the entire staff at the Prince George Free Press.

The local support grows every year.

Sunday's Kidney Walk, put on every year by the Kidney Foundation of Canada, attracted a large number of participants including organ donors, recipients, their family and friends, local luminaries and medical field workers. The group filled a main floor room at the Charles Jago Northern Sports Centre where they met for a "pep talk" before taking to the track.

There was lots of heartfelt emotion in the room.

Walk honoree Tracey Eyles says the decision to giver her father a new lease on life was the easiest thing she's ever had to do. Diagnosed with severe kidney disease, Dan Eyles was scheduled to begin dialysis in 2011 but Tracey was determined to bring back his health by donating one of her kidneys. Following an extensive screening process and tests, she found out she was a match.

The Spruce Kings at the Annual Kidney Walk

On June 4, her father received her precious gift.

Sunday, just a few months after the surgery, both father and daughter look fit and happy. However Tracey described how shocked she was by her 66 year-old father's appearance prior to surgery.

"He looked white in the face," she said. "Actually he was gray ... he looked like he was about to die," she said, fighting back tears.

Looking over at her father in the crowd, with other family members at his side, she smiled at him.

"Now his cheeks are pink and he's up doing things again. And hopefully now we will have him around for a very long time."

She praised the work of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. They made it possible for her family, who lives in Burns Lake, to stay for two months in Vancouver following the procedure without enduring financial hardship.

At the podium with her walking shoes on, Prince George MLA Shirley Bond had kind words for the selfless mother of two.

"You give a face to giving a gift," she said. "You are a local hero - and we're proud of you."

Bond also acknowledge the participation of the local Spruce Kings.

"We support (the Spruce Kings) in our community and so it's good to see so many of them out today supporting this."

Indeed, Tracey had the honour of dropping the puck at Saturday's Spruce Kings against the Surrey Eagles.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Player of the Week

Kirk Thompson corrals a puck during the weekend
in a pair of wins en route to his first BCHL Player of the Week

Kirk Thompson of the Prince George Spruce Kings is this week’s Gong Show British Columbia Hockey League Player of the Week. Thompson earned the honour after a stellar weekend that saw the Spruce Kings post a pair of wins on home ice including a second BCHL career shutout for the third year player.

The 20 year-old goaltender and the Spruce Kings started the weekend with a 2-1 win over the Powell River Kings on Friday night and followed that up with a 3-0 win over the Surrey Eagles. In the two games Thompson turned aside a total of 54 shots from the opposition with a 0.5 goals against average and 98.1 save percentage.

The wins improve Thompson’s early season record to 7-3-1 and move the veteran goaltender into the League’s top five among goaltenders with a minimum of five games played. The Spruce Kings record also improved to 7-4-1-1 giving the team 16 points and a share of second in the Mainland Division standings.

"I'm really happy. This is a great honour and something every player wants to have," said Kirk Thompson. "It finally worked out for me and I owe it to all the guys on the team. They blocked a lot of shots for me this weekend especially on the penalty kill. You can’t ask for more than that especially with some key players out of the lineup."

As well as acknowledging the efforts of his team mates, Thompson also credits the work of Blake Buckham, his goaltending coach in Prince George. This BCHL Player of the Week is a first for Thompson who has played well enough to earn it before but has only finished with an honourable mention previously.

Kirk Thompson and the rest of the Spruce Kings will now prepare to hit the road again this weekend for a pair of Mainland Division games against the Langley Rivermen Friday and their first meeting against the Coquitlam Express on Saturday.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thompson, Spruce Kings Blank Eagles

Kirk Thompson was sharp in net
picking up his second BCHL career shutout

Kirk Thompson made 18 of his 38 saves in the third period to back stop the Prince George Spruce Kings to a 3-0 win Saturday night over the Surrey Eagles at the Coliseum.

The veteran Spruce Kings netminder came up big early in the final stanza, making 12 saves in the first 10 minutes to preserve a second straight home-ice win for Prince George. Perhaps his biggest stop came off the stick of Trevor Cameron early in the period, making a pair of saves down low and preserving the momentum for the Spruce Kings.

As good as he was, Thompson also got some help from his goal posts a couple of times - first off a Thompson deflection in the first period and again in the second when Brandon Morley jumped on a turnover deep in the Spruce Kings end and rung one off the iron. Thompson had to react quickly on the latter play and Morley collected the rebound off the crossbar and fired another shot, but the Spruce Kings goalie shut the door.

The Spruce Kings got all their offence in the first two periods, with the top line accounting for all three goals. Cameron Lawson opened the scoring with his first of two in the first period, converting a perfectly executed two-on-one with Shayne Morrissey. Morrissey waited for the Eagles defender to commit then slid the puck to Lawson who let Eagles goalie Michael Santaguida slide cross-crease before firing a shot back the other way.

Morrissey scored his first BCHL goal in the second period, corralling a puck at the side of the net and firing it past Santaguida for a power-play tally. The Spruce Kings scored just 16 seconds into the man advantage as Mitch Eden's point shot went over the net, but Morrissey nabbed the rebound.

The Spruce Kings extended their lead late in the period as Skyler Pacheco kept the puck in at the blue-line against the run of play and found Lawson in the high slot and his low shot beat Santaguida.

Lawson finished the game with two goals and an assist, while Morrissey had a goal and an assist.

The Eagles outshot the Spruce Kings 38-37, including 18-13 in the final 20 minutes.

The Spruce Kings head on the road next weekend, with divisional games in Langley and Coquitlam. They're next on home ice on Oct. 26 when the Alberni Valley Bulldogs visit the Castle.

First Mainland Visitor

Spruce Kings celebrating a win over the Surrey Eagles

Tonight marks the first divisional matchup for the Prince George Spruce Kings in the Coliseum. Playing this season out of the Mainland Division, the Spruce Kings will play host to their new rivals a total of four times this season. The first divisional opponent to make their way north are the Surrey Eagles.

The two teams met last weekend in the Lower Mainland with Spruce Kings going into the nest and taking away two points in a 4-1 win. The Eagles will be looking to return the favour tonight after arriving in Prince George last night.

The Eagles have been on a see-saw ride to start the season swapping a win for a loss and not able to build any kind of a streak. They have had a week off since posting a 5-1 win over the Merritt Centennials and hoping to carry that momentum with them on the road tonight.

The Spruce Kings have been finding themselves in a series of close games and last night they came out on the right side of a one goal win holding off the Powell River Kings for the 2-1 victory. Four of the Spruce Kings last five games have all been one goal decisions with the lone exception being the win over Surrey.

In last night’s game, the Spruce Kings found themselves on the right side of the shot clock in all three periods with two early shots in the second period providing the difference in the game. Both plays originated in the Spruce Kings zone and both off the stick of Skylar Pacheco.

On the first goal, Pacheco spotted Jake LeBrun with a head man pass through the middle. LeBrun sidestepped one check before dishing off to Bryant Christian who got to the slot with good position. With a neat little snap shot that found just enough room on the far side to squeeze between the goalie and the post, Christian tied the game at 1 and notched his third tally of the season.

Less than two minutes later on a similar play Pacheco spotted Ryan Keis in the middle and fed a perfect outlet pass to the rookie. Keis, who had missed the past handful of games didn’t miss a beat in his return. Cool in the face of a big open ice hit coming, Keis was able to hold onto the puck just long enough before slipping it through to Justin Rai.

Streaking down the left side wall, Rai leaned into a wrister and whistled his fourth of the season into the back of the net giving the Spruce Kings the only lead of the game that they would need on this night.

The Spruce Kings have been defensively sound putting the old cliché about defense winning games to task. Last night Karan Toor and Skylar Pacheco were on top of their game in the absence of Trevor Esau who is expected to be out again tonight. Other scratches tonight include David London, Lyndon Martell, Tyson Witala, Trevor Esau and Tanner Fjellstrom who appeared to re-aggravate the injury that kept him out to start the season.

Over 1200 fans were in the Castle on Friday night to see the game and as many are expected again tonight. Bring your radios with your and listen to the live call of the game with Ron St. Clair, Todd Doherty and Peter James on 93.1 CFIS-FM. If you are unable to make it to the game in person you can listen live to the free audio online broadcast available at CFISFM.com or watch the pay-per-view broadcast on Fasthockey.com.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Spruce Kings win Battle Royale

Bryant Christian (11) scores his 3rd of the season
on this shot in the first minute of the second period

Bryant Christian and Justin Rai scored just over two minutes apart early in the second period as the Prince George Spruce Kings skated to a 2-1 win over the Powell River Kings at the Coliseum.

The Spruce Kings snapped a two-game losing streak and remain unbeaten in regulation on home ice so far this year.

Down 1-0 after 20 minutes, it didn't take the Spruce Kings long to get on the board in the second. Christian took a feed from Jake LeBrun and found the top corner over the shoulder of Kings goaltender Braeden Ostepchuk, just 56 seconds into the middle stanza.

Rai gave the Spruce Kings as lead they wouldn't relinquish at 3:02 when he rifled a shot from just inside the left face-off dot past Ostepchuk. Skyler Pacheco assisted on both Spruce Kings tallies.

The Spruce Kings had multiple chances to extend their lead, perhaps the best opportunity came off the stick of Liam Board. Jake LeBrun and Board had a two-on-one short-handed break midway through the second period. LeBrun elected to shoot and the rebound when right to Board, but he was unable to find the net with Ostepchuk out of position.

Shayne Morrisey, with a shot from the corner in the second period; Sean Landrey with a power-play shot and Pacheco, with a pair of power-play chances, also came close to adding to the Spruce Kings lead.

Ostepchuk, who is winless in three starts for the Kings, made 29 saves in a losing effort and kept the game from getting out of hand.

Kirk Thompson got the win in net for the Spruce Kings, making 15 saves. Jarryd Leung was the only man to beat Thompson, opening the scoring at 17:24 of the first period.

The win moves the Spruce Kings to 6-4-1-1 on the season and only a point back of idle Coquitlam for first place in the Mainland Division. The Kings fell to 4-7-0-2.

The Spruce Kings welcome their first Mainland Division opponent to the Castle on Saturday night as the Surrey Eagles (5-4-0-1) pay a visit. Prince George won the first battle between the two teams, scoring a 4-1 win in Surrey on Oct. 5.

Battle Royale

It is that time of the year again – when the two Royalties of the British Columbia Hockey League meet for bragging rights to the Crown. Over the years the teams have played out of different conferences, but this year both the Powell River Kings and the Prince George Spruce Kings play out of the Coastal Conference – at least they are still in different divisions.

The Powell River Kings are four time defending Coastal Conference Champions and have always had a strong showing throughout the regular season. Last year Powell River finished the regular season with a record of 40-16-2-2 including a single game against the Spruce Kings. In that game nothing was settled in a 2-2 tie.

This season both the Kings and the Spruce Kings sit in the middle of their five team divisions with records of 4-6-0-2 and 5-4-1-1 respectfully. The first noticeable difference between the two coming on the goals for and against stat where Prince George leads that with a +4 to Powell River’s -4.

The Spruce Kings started the season off with points in their first six games but since then have stumbled on back-to-back road trips failing to pick up points in three of four close games. Being back in their own castle might be exactly what the hockey gods have in mind as the Spruce Kings are 1-0-1-1 in the Coliseum.

Tonight will be the first chance for home fans to get a good look at the newest addition to the roster. Shayne Morrissey who hails from St. John’s Newfoundland will be wearing #12 in his fourth game with his new team. Last weekend Morrissey was dealing with the four and half hour time zone difference but says he has settled into the Pacific time zone.

After being the subject of a highlight reel goal that went viral from their last game, the Spruce Kings have put that last second goal behind them. The Powell River Kings suffered a regulation time loss under similar circumstances losing to the Victoria Grizzlies with .6 of a second remaining.

The road hasn’t been kind to the visitors tonight who are on their second long road trip of the season already. At the end of September, the Powell River Kings finished up an Interior Division road trip with a stop in Trail. The return trip to Powell River took the team over 17 hours. This time, after making their overnight stay in Quesnel, the Powell River Kings will head to Merritt.

The Prince George Spruce Kings will also play a pair this weekend with a rematch against the Surrey Eagles on Saturday night. The game tonight is sponsored by BC Hydro who will be on hand with promotional items and information to help you save money with your electrical bill. Ron St. Clair, Peter James and Todd Doherty will have the complete call of the game on 93.1 CFIS-FM with free audio available online at www.cfisfm.com and the pay-per-view broadcast on Fasthockey.com.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Buzzer Beater Stings Spruce Kings

Kirk Thompson (1) talks to Liam McLeod (35)
during a timeout in the game against Langley

In the return to the Langley Events Centre the Spruce Kings came up .3 of a second from picking up any points suffering a 4-3 loss in regulation time to the Langley Rivermen. The game was played on Thanksgiving afternoon, the third game in as many days and the second in a row against the Rivermen.

After allowing three goals in the third period on Saturday night, the Spruce Kings found themselves in the same hole in the first period Sunday afternoon. Going with Liam McLeod between the pipes wasn't a bad decision as the youngster has earned his time between the pipes for the Spruce Kings, but a trio of unfortunate goals made it a short outing for the rookie.

The Rivermen picked up where they left off on Saturday night, coming hard at the Spruce Kings. Early on the visitors seemed to be okay, playing defensively good positional hockey and forcing their opponents to take low percentage shots while making sure their netminder could see the puck.

Coming up with three big glove saves, Liam McLeod was seen with a big smile on his face, but an unfortunate bounce on the very next play would take that smile away and change the complexion of the game. The faceoff would come to the left of the goaltender, Langley would win the draw back to the defenceman on the right point.

Logan Smith fired the point shot in on goal, McLeod made the initial save and as the bodies moved across the top of the crease the puck would come loose. Trevor Cope poked it through the top of the crease sliding it past McLeod where it deflected off the inside of Brad Ryan's skate and into the net. The Rivermen were credited with a fifth shot on goal and a 1-0 lead 2:01 into the first period.

To try and find some chemistry, the Spruce Kings had changed up some of the lines heading into the game. As luck would have it, a miscommunication at the Spruce Kings bench would lead to an extra player on the ice and a bench minor for too many men. The Langley Rivermen would make short order of the man advantage and open a 2-0 lead at 6:16, just 13 seconds after the powerplay started.

Off the ensuing faceoff, Jakob Reichert would work the puck back to the right point for Logan Smith. Again the point man would take a big shot on goal and again McLeod would come up with the save while looking around the screen setup in front. The puck bounced off the netminder landing on Matt Ustaski's stick who wasted no time putting it back into McLeod finding the five hole in the process.

The Spruce Kings called a time out to settle down the troops and it looked like it may have worked with Tyson Witala finding Coltyn Hansen in the middle sending the Spruce Kings leading scorer in on a break away. Logan Smith upended Hansen leading to a penalty shot opportunity.

Hansen picked up the puck at centre ice and carried it in on Hogg and try to pull it away from the goaltender only to have slip off the stick. Hogg got a piece of it before Hansen could recover and even though the puck went into the net the score remained 2-0 in favour of the Langley Rivermen.

The Spruce Kings would get more chances starting with a powerplay when Ustaski was called for charging. The man advantage turned into a two man advantage when Jeremiah Luedtke was caught with a high stick sending Troy Nitsche to the penalty box with a double minor. The two man advantage would be a short one of only 19 seconds with the Spruce Kings getting two shots through on Hogg before the first penalty expired.

The Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game on Saturday night came at the 39 second mark of the third period when Austin Azurdia picked up a puck and broke in all alone while shorthanded. On this night that moment would contain many of the same elements being Azurdia and shorthanded goal as a result of an aggressive penalty kill leading to a break down the ice.

After a Mitch Eden shot from the high slot and a Brad Ryan shot from the top of the faceoff circle, the Rivermen recovered the puck getting it to Austin Azurdia as he moved through the middle of the ice. Azurdia was able to gain the Spruce Kings zone with only one man back. Eden did a good job of taking away the far side of the net, but Azurdia saw just enough daylight on the short side and whistled his fifth of the season past McLeod from the faceoff dot.

The goal put the Spruce Kings down 3-0 with the Rivermen's eleventh shot on McLeod spelling the end of netminder's third start in the BCHL. The Spruce Kings still had 3:30 to work with on the double minor and would end up with yet another two man advantage after Trevor Esau was slashed. The Spruce Kings would work the puck around the Rivermen zone for a full thirty seconds without a shot before the whistle.

It would take a little more patience but finally the Spruce Kings would be able to tee one up and get a shot through on Darren Hogg. From the corner Bryant Christian was able to win a puck battle along the boards getting the puck to Mitch Eden on the top of the right side faceoff circle. Faking the shot and then dishing off to Brad Ryan on the left faceoff circle, the play saw Hogg slide too far off the back post giving Ryan the room he needed for his third of the season.

The goal came at 14:59 of the first period with 37 seconds still remaining in the two man advantage. Unfortunately the Spruce Kings would not get another shot on goal and neither would the Rivermen with both teams finishing the first period with 11 shots each. The second period was more of the same defensive battle with teams struggling for shots early in the period.

In that second period, the Spruce Kings looked to have cut the lead to one with a shot from Tyson Witala that turned on the goal light but left the referee signalling no goal. Collecting a pass from Justin Rai off the boards, Witala was able to skate through the faceoff circle before wristing one on net that deflected off a stick and looked to hit the netting just inside the goal post and fall in the blue paint behind Hogg before being cleared out of the crease.

With the goal light on, the play was allowed to carry on for almost a minute until the next whistle. During that time the Rivermen had a glorious scoring opportunity only to be robbed by the glove of Kirk Thompson who swatted the puck out of mid-air before it could cross the goal line. After the whistle the referee went talk to everybody but the goal judge sticking to his original call of no-goal.

In the third period the Spruce Kings seemed to be gaining momentum in large part from the play from the line combination of Chad Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Shayne Morrissey. Add in a high flying Justin Rai, hard working effort from Jake LeBrun and the chances created by Cameron Lawson and the Spruce Kings would find the recipe for a comeback.

From a neutral zone faceoff win, the Spruce Kings would gain the offensive zone on a bit of a broken play that started with Hansen having to fish the puck out of a sticks at the top of the left faceoff circle. The puck would come back to Esau on the left point who would dump it in for Cameron Lawson. The puck would then come to Justin Rai who skated straight to the net.

After an outstanding few games as an AP with the Spruce Kings that earned the Surrey hockey product a full roster spot, Rai had struggled to find his touch around the net. And on his first shot, Hogg was able to get enough of it to deflect behind the net. Rai stayed with the puck and with speed picked it up intent on finding the back of the net which he did with the wrap around attempt at 17:55 of the third period.

Dave Dupas would stay with the line that just scored for the next shift and that move would pay off less than a minute later. On another broken play, Esau was finally able to settle down the puck and carry it in just onside. The Spruce Kings captain would get the puck to Lawson who would take it to the net. This time the puck would come out in front of the crease where Rai was waiting for it to poke it under Hogg.

The Spruce Kings had finally erased that two goal deficit that had been haunting them since the first period. With two minutes remaining and time ticking down fast, it certainly seemed like these two teams were destined for overtime but that would not be the case.

In a bizarre sequence of events with less than twenty seconds remaining, Austin Azurdia and James Robinson would collide with each other just inside the Rivermen's blue line with the puck rolling out into centre ice. The Spruce Kings would fire it deep inside the zone as if resigned to the notion that this game was headed to overtime.

With eleven seconds showing on the clock, Bo Pellah would find the puck behind his own goal line feeding a stretch pass up to Azurdia going through the middle again. With 3.7 seconds showing on the clock, Azurdia crossed the blue line heading down the right side lane. with a flick of the wrist, he was able to sneak the puck through the legs of the Spruce Kings defender picking it up on the other side with time running out.

The Spruce King killer this weekend would have just enough time to collect the puck, regain his balance and flip a snap shot up and over Kirk Thompson's shoulder below the cross bar. The puck would actually cross the plane of the goal line with 1.1 seconds showing on the clock but reaction time from the off ice officials brought the clock down to 0.3 seconds.

Either way the damage was done and the Spruce Kings were robbed of even a single point. Perhaps even more unfortunate for Kirk Thompson was the fact that he gets saddled with the loss allowing one goal against on 19 shots. The Spruce Kings will now head back home to finish out the Thanksgiving weekend before getting back on the ice to prepare for the other royalty in the BCHL - the Powell River Kings - on Friday night and rematch on Saturday with the Surrey Eagles.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Spruce Kings Sunk by the Rivermen

Liam Board (19) dropped the mitts with Trevor Cope (16)
after a questionable hit on Chad Staley (22)

The Spruce Kings suffered a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Langley Rivermen on Saturday night in Langley. In a fairly defensive physical battle, the Spruce Kings had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the third period but couldn't hold on giving up two late goals. The Spruce Kings will have an opportunity to earn the weekend split when the two teams meet again on Sunday afternoon at 2pm.

Time and space was at a premium for both teams Saturday night with a close checking and defensive strategy adopted by both teams. Langley was the more physical team on the night and took every opportunity to initiate and finish hits. Although the Rivermen controlled much of the play throughout the game, they had difficulty getting setup even when on the powerplay.

The Spruce Kings would open the scoring on a powerplay of their own late in the first period. On a play started by Tyson Witala with a dump in, Martell was able to fish the puck out of traffic in the right faceoff circle and get it into the slot where Coltyn Hansen was waiting. As Hansen got a piece of it he directed the slow moving puck off the far post and in at 18:16 of the first period.

That goal would be the lone marker on the board for either team for over 22 minutes as the teams continued to battle each other and not allow the opposition to set up anything of significance. That changed in a big hurry at the start of the third period with the Spruce Kings on their fifth powerplay of the game.

The Spruce Kings powerplay unit started off with the right idea, trying to collapse the four man penalty kill unit looking for the perfect shot on goal. Unfortunately, the setup pass through the top of the crease was picked off by Austin Azurdia who raced down the other end of the ice untouched.

With tons of speed on the clear cut breakaway, Azurdia went straight down the middle putting the puck into the pads of Kirk Thompson. The backward momentum of Thompson brought both the goalie and the puck over the goal line allowing the Rivermen to tie up the game 1-1 just 39 seconds into the final period.

The Spruce Kings would get that one back and restore their one goal lead with their second powerplay tally of the night at 7:33. With a D-to-D pass along the blueline, the puck went into the corner and came out on Tyson Witala's stick. The Prince George hockey product came around the faceoff circle and while trying to split a pair of defenders just lobbed the puck on net, squeezing one under the arm for his sixth of the season.

The Langley Rivermen did not give up nor did they change their physical approach to the game. On one Spruce Kings rush, Chad Staley was tracking the puck into the corner when he was tagged team along the glass. Liam Board was right there and immediately went after Trevor Cope. The pair dropped the gloves and exchanged a few blows, when the dust settled Board was given an extra minor for roughing.

That would be just what the Langley River needed even though they didn't officially score with the man advantage. As the penalty was coming to an end Bo Pellah took the puck and started to head behind the Spruce Kings net but before he got completely behind it, he was able to center the puck where Azurdia was standing and waiting to knock in his second of the game.

Throughout the game, both teams struggled with puck possession - errand passes, bounces and rolling pucks causing much of the problem. On one clearing attempt, the Spruce Kings were able to get the puck to the blue line not once but twice only to have the puck come off the heel of a stick and right onto the tape of Jakob Reichert.

The one time Merritt Centennial carried the puck to the top of the faceoff circle and let go a rising shot that was tipped past Kirk Thompson. The goal gave the Rivermen their first lead of the game with less than 3 minutes remaining. After the Spruce Kings had held the lead for over 30 minutes of the game, the Rivermen had found a way to come back and take over that lead with 2:39 remaining in regulation.

The Spruce Kings coaching staff tried everything to find even some of the chemistry that the team had one night earlier when they posted a 4-1 over the Surrey Eagles. Dave Dupas picked players from every line to try and find a combination that would even up the game, even pulling Thompson with well over a minute remaining in the game. The Spruce Kings would get a couple of chances, but like the chances earlier on, nothing was working.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Rivermen had upset the Spruce Kings and posted their fourth win of the season to really tighten up the Mainland Division standings. The lose coupled with a Chilliwack/Coquitlam tie, sees the Spruce Kings fall into a two way tie for second place with the Chilliwack Chiefs who have a game in hand on Prince George.

That will turn into two games after Sunday's return to the LEC and rematch of the Langley Rivermen and Prince George Spruce Kings. A 2pm game to finish out the three game road trip and an opportunity to pick up the split against their Mainland Division rival.

Sunday's game will not be broadcast on 93.1 CFIS-FM. A free online audio only broadcast of the game will be available from the Spruce Kings UStream channel. The game will also be available as a pay-per-view broadcast on Fasthockey.com beginning at 1:40pm. Following the game, the Spruce Kings will head back home to enjoy the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend and prepare for a home weekend with games against the Powell River Kings Friday night and Surrey Eagles on Saturday night.