Friday, December 20, 2013

Game Day at Chilliwack Chiefs

Braiden Epp (26) skates through the top of the crease with a
scoring chance against the Chilliwack Chiefs last Monday

The Prince George Spruce Kings will wrap up their pre-Christmas schedule and play their final game of 2013 tonight in Chilliwack when they face the Chiefs for the third time in four games. The Spruce Kings and the Chiefs have met five times already this season with Prince George leading the head-to-head series with four wins and an overtime loss. But don't think this game is going to be an easy one for the visitors.

The Chilliwack Chiefs have shown that they are a capable team and had the Spruce Kings in a good old fashioned shoot-out in their last meeting. Getting Prince George off their defensive game is no easy task, but on Monday the Chiefs found a way to build up a pair of two goal leads and finished the game with five goals total. Last night the Spruce Kings allowed five goals again but the difference was they weren't able to score the eight against Surrey that they did against Chilliwack.

In Thursday's game, the Spruce Kings had some great chances in the first half of the first period and were outshooting the Surrey Eagles 7-2 after 12 minutes of play. After the BCHL timeout, it was the Eagles that came up with some chances of their own and closed down the lanes to the net that were open earlier, holding the Spruce Kings to without a shot on goal. The drought continued into the second period allowing the Eagles to find the bounce they needed to open the scoring.

The game's first goal came two minutes into the second period when Colton Mackie centered a pass from the left corner to a crowd skating down the slot in front of the net. The puck was directed into the net off the foot of Brett Mulcahy and, after a brief discussion by the officials, was ruled a good goal. The Eagles would continue to get chances and were rewarded with their first powerplay of the game mid-way through the middle frame. They made short order of the man-advantage scoring thirty seconds in to give them their first two goal lead of the game.

Jake LeBrun was able to get that one back after he pounced on a loose puck at the side of the net and pushed it in. The Eagles restored their two goal lead moments later but before the second was over, Jeremiah Luedtke lifted his ninth of the season over the reach of the Surrey netminder. The third period started with another early goal for the Surrey Eagles giving them their third two goal lead of the game. Again the Spruce Kings would come back with a lucky bounce of their own after Mitch Eden's dump in shot deflected off the stantion and got in behind the netminder.

An empty net goal late in the third period sealed the fate of the Spruce Kings in a 5-3 loss. With no points in game number 35 of the season, the Spruce Kings can no longer catch the Langley Rivermen before Christmas. The Rivermen sit idle until December 28th with 48 points through 37 games played, the Spruce Kings can close the gap with a win tonight. Prince George has 44 points heading into tonight's game and will still have a game in hand afterwards.

The Chilliwack Chiefs have tonight and one more game to get through before their Christmas break and it will be a short break. The Chiefs play on December 21st and again on December 28th whereas the Spruce Kings will head home after tonight's game and will reconvene in time for their next game on January 3rd in Powell River. The shorter break for the Chiefs along with their current situation in the Mainland Division makes them a dangerous team at this time of the year.

When you look closely at the Chiefs record, what's missing is how close some of those games were and how a bounce here or there could have completely turned the outcome of games completely around. The Spruce Kings have been there and have seen that scenario play out themselves firsthand. The team has also experienced the thrill of a second half season turn-around and know that the Chilliwack Chiefs will be looking to start their own surge tonight.

The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Game Day at Surrey Eagles

Chad Staley (22) continues to lead the Spruce Kings and
will be looking to do so again tonight vs the Surrey Eagles

The Spruce Kings are on the road for a pair of Mainland Divisional matchups to play out the 2013 portion of their season with stops in Surrey tonight and Chilliwack Friday night. Prince George, as they have for many seasons in a row, will play their final games before the Christmas break on the road before sending players home to be with family and friends over the holidays.

Before they can go their separate ways, the players will first have to come up with a pair of focuses efforts if they would like to give themselves their own best Christmas present. A pair of wins will put them in top spot in the Mainland Division with the same amount of points as the current front runners and a game in hand on the Langley Rivermen. Not mentally leaving on holidays before playing the games and not getting too far ahead of themselves will be the keys to the games, especially tonight.

Tonight marks the sixth meeting of the season between the Surrey Eagles and the Prince George Spruce Kings with these two teams having played to some interesting finishes in their first five encounters. Both teams have a lopsided win against the other on home ice and both have skated away with a narrow one goal finish in the other's arena. They have also had to settle for a single point in a 4-4 overtime tie.

In their very first meeting, the Surrey Eagles racked up a 6-1 win on home ice and it was the following night that the two ended 70 minutes of play in a deadlock. A couple of weeks later Prince George had to come from behind after giving up a short handed goal against to post a 3-2 win in regulation time. Two weeks after that Surrey made their first trip North and came home with a split after being blown out 7-1 in the first night, they never trailed the next night and won the game 2-1.

Since that win in Prince George, the Surrey Eagles have been playing nearly perfect .500 hockey and have been flip flopping wins and losses to the tune of a record of 5 wins and 4 losses with the last win being a 5-4 overtime win at home to the Coquitlam Express last Sunday night. The Surrey Eagles are on a current home ice win streak of four wins and will be looking to improve their overall home ice record this season to 9-9-1-0. Meanwhile the Spruce Kings are winners of their last two games - games they weren't even sure they would get to play at this time last week.

In a pair of rescheduled games played on Sunday and Monday night in Prince George, the Spruce Kings came away with four points after posting 4-1 and 8-5 wins over the Chilliwack Chiefs. The Spruce Kings will be looking to add to their current two game win streak and will be looking to improve their first half road record strong as well. Currently sitting with a road record of 10-5-2-1, the Spruce Kings have the same number of points on the road and in as many games as the Langley Rivermen.

Players to be on the watch for tonight include Brent Lashuk who has had three multiple point games against Surrey including a hat trick in the 7-1 win on November 15th. Brogan O'Brien has also registered a hat trick against the Eagles. Justin Rai is coming off two big games and will be looking to have another one again tonight playing in front of family and friends. Bryant Christian and Jake LeBrun look to be on track after being put back on a line together. The two combined for nine points in their last two games together with Justin Rai and Brent Lashuk alternating as the other winger.

Chad Staley continues to impress and has heard from a number of schools of their interest in him for their programs. Staley will want to show that he can play a big game on any size sheet of ice and making an impact on the Olympic ice tonight will be his opportunity to get one step closer to solidifying a long term deal with a NCAA Division I school. Staley and Luedtke have been the team's dynamic duo creating multiple chances and frustrating the opposition every time they have been on the ice.

Jesse Jenks is expected to get the start in goal tonight. Feeling more comfortable in his new pads, Jenks would like to have a big game against the Eagles to keep his numbers at the top of the Leagues' Leaderboard. Jenks comes into the game with a 2.56 Goals Against Average and .915 Save Percentage and a record of 7 wins, 4 losses and 1 tie. Against the Eagles, Jenks has a record of 1 win and 1 tie having only played in two of the five previous meetings.

The coaching staff will want the players to be conscious of their defensive assignments, especially on the big ice as it will be difficult to play catchup hockey against the fast moving Surrey Eagles tonight. The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Game Day vs Chilliwack Chiefs

This was the scene at the end of the first period
with Braiden Epp and Shay Laurent mixing it up.
Brogan O'Brien and Kurt Black were also involved in a
heavy collision that left both players slow to get up.

Tonight marks the final home game before the Christmas break for the Prince George Spruce Kings as the team concludes their double header with the Chilliwack Chiefs. The Spruce Kings and the Chiefs will meet one more time in Chilliwack before players head home on Friday night.

Both teams will be looking to collect two points for their stocking and improve their positioning in the standings. For the Chilliwack Chiefs, those points are becoming exceedingly important as they fight for playoff positioning in the Mainland Division. The Chiefs are sitting seven games out of a playoff spot with time becoming a factor.

The Prince George Spruce Kings are sitting second in the Mainland Division with 42 points after last night’s win. The Langley Rivermen are sitting in top spot with 48 points but have also played four more games than the Spruce Kings. A win tonight sets up an interesting finish before the Christmas break with Langley already into their break.

In last night’s game, the Spruce Kings opened up an early lead and held onto it for the duration of the game but shouldn’t expect it to be as easy tonight. The Chiefs left in the early morning hours for Sunday’s game and the Spruce Kings were able to take advantage building up a 3-0 lead in the first period.

The first goal, scored by Justin Rai at 6:01, led to the showering of donations in the Annual “Drop the Gloves and Sock it to ‘Em” game with new socks, gloves and togues being donated to the less fortunate and homeless in our downtown through the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The Spruce Kings made it 2-0 on a short-handed goal when Brent Lashuk tapped in a nice cross crease pass from Karan Toor who had carried the puck up the ice after a defensive zone faceoff won by Jeremiah Luedtke. Jake LeBrun made it 3-0 after he tipped in a point shot from Skylar Pacheco.

There was no scoring in the second period and teams traded goals late in the third period with Austin Plevy scoring while the Chilliwack Chiefs were on a five minute powerplay. Justin Rai completed the Spruce Kings scoring finding the empty net after Karan Toor and Christian Weidauer came up with the puck in the neutral zone.

The Spruce Kings will want to be wary of the abilities of Chilliwack wanting to play hard and get the split against their Mainland Divisional rival tonight and be able to head home with at least two points and an end to their current losing streak.

Tonight's game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Game Day vs Chilliwack Chiefs

Thankfully it is game on tonight after this weekend’s double header was originally cancelled due to the current labour disruption between the City and its unionized workers that includes staff at the Coliseum. Prior to Saturday’s one-day work stoppage, the Spruce Kings, the Chilliwack Chiefs and the BCHL agreed that the games would have to be cancelled and rescheduled.

The double header is now on for Sunday and Monday nights in the Prince George Coliseum. The game tonight is also the “Drop the Gloves and Sock it to ‘Em” game with fans being able to throw new socks, gloves and toques in a plastic bag onto the ice after the Spruce Kings score their first goal.

Clothing items along with non-perishable food items will be donated to the less fortunate and homeless in our downtown through the St. Vincent de Paul Society. This particular fundraiser is one that is greatly appreciated by St. Vincent de Paul and the team continues to support the Society by also having players and coaching staff help serve meals at the shelter.

The Spruce Kings have been idle with an eight day break between games while the Chilliwack Chiefs welcomed the extra day off before having to venture North. The Chiefs played on Friday night and were originally scheduled to drive to Prince George Saturday morning for a game that night. With the change in dates, the Chiefs players were given an extra day to prepare for their game in Prince George.

The Spruce Kings last played in Coquitlam on Friday December 6th where they suffered a 6-3 loss to the Express. Prince George (18-10-2-2) still sits in second place in the Mainland Division with five games in hand on the front running Langley Rivermen (22-11-1-3) who have an eight point cushion on the Spruce Kings prior to start of the game in Prince George. The Coquitlam Express (16-15-0-2) are in third place with 34 points followed by the Surrey Eagles (14-19-1-0) and the Chilliwack Chiefs (7-23-1-2).

The Chiefs come in to the game on an eight game losing skid and will be looking to use the favour of an extra day to their advantage. Chilliwack has made some minor changes to their roster since the last time they played the Spruce Kings but they also have been forced to fill a few holes with affiliate players tonight.

The Spruce Kings are a healthier bunch with all players available to play tonight. Bryant Christian will be making his return to home ice for the first time since October 26th when he suffered a broken jaw. A newcomer to the team making his debut on home ice is Marco Ballarin. Acquired on December 1st, Ballarin has looked good in his first two games with his new team picking up a goal and two assists in two games versus the Coquitlam Express.

Other players to watch tonight from Prince George include the usuals this season. Chad Staley continues to lead the team with 35 points (16G, 19A) followed by his long time linemate going back to their playing days in Wenatchee, Jeremiah Luedtke has 30 points (8G, 22A). Brent Lashuk (8G, 15A) will take up the side on that line as these three get reunited for the first time in a few weeks. Justin Rai (4G, 11A), Bryant Christian (5G, 10A) and Jake LeBrun (11G, 9A) will also be looking to recreate some of their magic from earlier this season tonight.

From the blue line, Christian Weidauer (9G, 18A) continues to be a contributor offensively and is among the League's top three offensive defencemen. Carter Cochrane (12G, 17A) of the Chilliwack Chiefs is also up in the list with the second best offensive numbers for those players that patrol the blue line. The only other player on the Chilliwack squad with better numbers than Cochrane is Austin Plevy. The Chilliwack Chiefs captain leads the teams with both goals and assists at 14 and 20 respectfully.

Alex Murray is expected to get the start in goal for the Spruce Kings, making this his fourth consecutive start. Murray is ranked among the League's best netminders with a goals against average of 2.50 and a save percentage of .912. Josh Halpenny will get the start for the Chilliwack Chiefs, his numbers aren't nearly as good but he has shown an ability to post similar numbers to those of Murray's.

The mitigating factor in tonight's game might very well be the one day off and how that affects each team. For Chilliwack it is seen as an advantage and an extra day to make their way to Prince George. For the Spruce Kings, they will have to show that they to used the day off wisely. The key for both teams will be to start early. An early start for the visitors will take the fans out of the game, while an early start for the Spruce Kings will lead to the showering of clothing items for the St. Vincent de Paul Society and an additional time out for both teams.

Tonight's game is a 7pm start with the game broadcast live online. The pay-per-view feed is available through and the free audio only webcast can be found on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Game Day at Coquitlam Express

A scene from Wednesday's 6-0 win in Coquitlam

After a day off taking in the sights and sounds of Vancouver, the Prince George Spruce Kings will make their way back to Cooquitlam for a second meeting this week against the Express. It will be the fourth meeting of the season so far and the second in three days. On Wednesday night, the Spruce Kings skated away with a 6-0 win to improve their record to 18-9-2-2 and just one point back of top spot in the Mainland Division.

Despite the seemingly lopsided affair, the game was anything but titled in favour of the visitors who were outshot 38-26. If not for the stellar play of goaltender Alex Murray - especially in the first period - this game could have turned out much different for Prince George.

"We were fortunate to get that win and in the way that we did," said Spruce Kings assistant coach, Colton Buffie. "We had maybe ten good scoring chances and scored on six of them."

The Coquitlam Express had that many and more chances including an empty net that somehow eluded Joey Santucci in the first period and at least three goal posts throughout the game.

"We are a good team defensively," added Buffie. "But we really can't be giving away that many chances to the opposition. We want to be better tonight and the players know they have to be better as well.

The Coquitlam Express have shown that they can light the lamp and with the exception of their last two games, have been doing exactly that outscoring their opposition on home ice 29-23 in the month of November. Unfortunately they may be a little more concerned about their December record and being outscored 14-1 in two games.

The Express were working on defensive systems during practice and Prince George should expect to see a different team tonight than what they saw on Wednesday night. Offensively, the Express are still potent as was seen two nights ago with all their scoring chances and ability to create odd-man rushes.

The Spruce Kings got goal scoring from six different players: Chad Staley (16), Jake Lebrun (11), Christian Weidauer (9), Jeremiah Luedtke (8), Matt Painchaud (2) and Caleb Thompson (2). A total of twelve players picked up at least a single point in the game including Alex Murray who helped set up two goals and newcomer Marco Ballarin who was also picked up his first BCHL points with two assists.

Making the most of their situations has been a constant for Prince George this season and they will have to find a way of doing it again after the return of Bryant Christian to the lineup was short lived. The Spruce Kings captain took a blind side hit where the principal point of contact was his jaw and was unable to return to the game.

Due to swelling and the recent injury to his jaw, there still hasn't been a determination as to the extent of the injury that Christian suffered. Doctors are still assessing x-rays taken following the hit and are waiting for Christian to return to Prince George before releasing their findings. Christian will obviously be out of the lineup tonight with hope being that he can return in time for next Saturday's game in Prince George.

The Spruce Kings will be looking to play the game they've been playing since losing their captain and restake their claim on top spot in the Mainland Division. Sitting one point back of the Langley Rivermen, a win tonight will put them back on top with a game in hand. The Rivermen are also playing tonight in Trail and will be looking to maintain at least their one point lead on the upstart Spruce Kings.

The Spruce Kings and Coquitlam Express game is scheduled for a 7pm start tonight from the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex. The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Game Day at Coquitlam Express

The Prince George Spruce Kings and the Coquitlam Express will faceoff tonight for the third time this season. The game tonight is scheduled for a 7:30pm puck drop at the Poirier Sports Complex in Coquitlam. In the previous two meetings, Prince George came away with four points posting a 3-2 regulation time win and a 4-3 double overtime win.

Interestingly enough, Bryant Christian scored in both of those games including the overtime winner and, at the time of writing this blog, Christian is listed as a game time decision to play tonight. After missing the entire month of November after taking a puck in the jaw, Christian is well on his way to returning to the game and is itching to get back in the lineup.

Christian had returned home to Moorhead Minnesota to have surgery and recover there; although he worked hard in the gym and on the ice over the past couple of weeks, having his jaw wired shut did leave the Spruce Kings captain ten pounds lighter. Prior to his injury, Christian was listed as 160 pounds but played a much meaner game going to the net hard and getting in the dirty areas. Even if Christian gets into the lineup tonight, that style of play may be missing for a few games.

The Spruce Kings will also have one new player on the roster tonight. Marco Ballarin was playing with the Ridge Meadow Flames prior to receiving a phone call on December 1st from the Spruce Kings General Manager. Ballarin was into his third season with the Flames and was on an over a point a game average with 16 goals and 16 assists in 23 games. At 5.10, 190 pounds, the eighteen year old is expected to add a physical presence up front with offensive upside.

The Spruce Kings roll into Coquitlam tonight coming off a double overtime win over the BCHL's top team, the Powell River Kings. The game was free wheeling at times with both teams getting a number of tremendous opportunities. When the dust settled, it was the Prince George Spruce Kings, off a highlight reel tip in from Chad Staley, that skated away with the two points.

Staley continues to roll along with Jeremiah Luedtke on his side creating chances all game long. Currently ranked 12th among the League's leading point getters, Staley is one point away from a top ten spot and one multi-point game away from jumping up to the top five. Staley and Luedtke as a pairing are almost unstoppable and when that third player is added to the line, the combination becomes one of the toughest lines to defend against in the BCHL.

Perhaps if there is a concern to be had with the play of late, it is that the team has been in a number of one goal games and at times have allowed the opposition to stay in striking distance for far too long. In the past twelve games, only two have been decided by more than a goal and the last five have all been one goal decisions. Defensively, the team is sound holding the opposition to an average of two goals a game in the past ten outings.

Meanwhile the opposition tonight, the Coquitlam Express, have been treating their fans to a light show averaging five goals a game in their last five at home. The Express have a 4-1 record over those five games with the scoresheet showing a total of 42 goals between the home team and their opposition. In their last home game, the Express scored nine times, but did give up six goals. In their last game, played in Nanaimo, the Express offense dried up and they are coming off an 8-1 loss to the Clippers.

What that means for tonight's game, only time will tell. The team has been getting its scoring from six forwards in Adam Rockwood (7G, 31A), Ryan Rosenthal (19G, 17A), Canon Pieper (15G, 15A), Corey Mackin (16G, 13A) Bo Pieper (13G, 16A) and Joey Santucci (15G, 12A). Although Rockwood and Rosenthal are among the League's Top Ten scoring leaders, the team's goaltenders are nowhere to be found in the top twenty list.

The Spruce Kings are considered one of the better defensive teams in the League, proving that tonight will be the test while trying to exploit the other team's defense a key for success. The Spruce Kings will play the Coquitlam Express again on Friday night with an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the third place Express who are eight points back. Prince George is currently three points behind Langley for top spot in the Mainland Division with two games in hand on the Rivermen.

Tonight's game is the fourth Prince George Motors Feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive with Ron St. Clair and Ron Gallo providing all of the action beginning with a pregame show at 7:15pm. Listen live on 99.3 the Drive or online [click here]. The usual online options will also be available with the pay-per-view feed through or the audio only online feed with chat options from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

Ready to Return

After missing the entire month of November, Bryant Christian
is ready to return to action in the BCHL

After missing a dozen games due to a broken jaw and returning to his home in Moorhead Minnesota for surgery and recovery, Bryant Christian has returned to the team.

Meeting his team mates on Tuesday night when they arrived in the Lower Mainland for a pair of games against the Coquitlam Express, Christian is excited to get back on the ice and into the action.

"Nobody wants to get back more than I do," said an excited Christian. "This has been a long time to be away from the game."

Christian's last game was back on October 26 against the Cowichan Valley Captials. In that Spruce Kings 3-2 win, Christian took a puck up high to the face and knew he had taken a hard shot. At the time he didn't know just how hard that shot was and played out the rest of the game. It wasn't until the following day that the full diagnosis could be made.

"There was a lot of bruising," explained Christian. "I was hopeful that was all it was, but the doctor determined it was more. After consultation, we decided that it would be best for me to return home for the surgery."

For the entire month of November, Bryant Christian had his jaw wired shut making eating nearly impossible. After losing ten pounds, the twenty year old forward has already started getting some of that weight back and is appearing leaner and fitter.

"I was working out almost every day and as soon as I could get back out on the ice, I was," added Christian. "I believe I'm ready to go but have been told it will be a game time decision at least for this game."

The coaching staff wants to get a good look at the team's captain before making any commitment to whether or not he will be in the lineup.

"We all want to see Bryant Christian suit up and get back out there," said Spruce Kings assistant coach, Colton Buffie. "We don't want to put a player out there too soon and risk a further set back to his return."

"(Bryant) is a very important part of this team and its success this season," added Buffie. "This is also an important season for him personally as a twenty year old trying to secure a NCAA scholarship."

Prior to his injury, Christian had been talking to a couple of schools and is hoping to pick up where things were left off at the end of October.

The Spruce Kings (17-9-2-2) play tonight in Coquitlam against the Express (14-13-0-2) in a matchup of Mainland Divisional teams. The game is the next PG Motors Feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive and will be broadcast live on the Prince George radio station and online [click here].

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Game Day vs Powell River Kings

After having the two prime nights for hockey off, the Prince George Spruce Kings get back at it with a matinee matchup against the Powell River Kings. The home team today last played a game on Wednesday night, dropping a narrow 2-1 decision to the Langley Rivermen. The Island Division Kings, on the other hand, are wrapping up a long weekend of travel that saw them in Chilliwack Friday night and Merritt last night.

The Powell River Kings have been holding down top spot in the BCHL overall and come into the game with 43 points (20-4-2-1) after settling for a single point in a 1-1 tie last night. With just a one point edge on the Victoria Grizzlies and top spot in both the Island Division and the BCHL overall, the Powell River Kings will be wanting to add some padding at the expense of the Spruce Kings.

The Spruce Kings come into the game looking to assert themselves against the League’s best team and get back in the race to the top. It wasn’t that long ago that the Spruce Kings were challenging the Powell River Kings for top spot in the League overall. That loss to Langley on Wednesday also saw Prince George drop to second place in the Mainland Division, three points back of the Rivermen.

The game itself was a tight affair with the visitors frustrating the Spruce Kings getting everything in the lanes. The lone goal came from an all Prince George line with Braiden Epp finishing up a play set up by Brogan O’Brien and Jake LeBrun. Certainly one game doesn’t make for a great deal of concern, but expect a minor shakeup with the lines has worked magic in the past and can be expected again today.

Mitch Barker (listed as day-to-day) will sit this one out as will Bryant Christian. The Spruce Kings captain has been away at his home in Moorhead Minnesota recovering from a facial injury but is expected to rejoin the team next week while the team is on the road. The Spruce Kings want to start that journey and the month of December off on the right foot and that means coming up with a big game against a gifted team.

Powell River has been averaging 4 goals a game while the Spruce Kings are a little more conservative with an average of 2.97 goals per game. Ryan Scarfo leads the way with 34 points (14G, 20A), Drew Dorantes (17G, 12A) has the team’s lead in goals scored while Jarid Lukosevicius (9G, 18A) rounds out the top three.

The Spruce Kings are getting the bulk of their scoring from Chad Staley (14G, 18A) and Jeremiah Luedtke (6G, 20A) with Christian Weidauer (7G, 18A) adding some big numbers from the blue line.

Game time is 3pm with the game available online with a pay-per-view broadcast through and a free audio only feed through the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pre-game show at 2:40pm.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Game Day vs Langley Rivermen

Tonight the Prince George Spruce Kings will host their mainland divisional rival, the Langley Rivermen in a game that has top spot bragging rights at stake. These two teams have been all over each other over the past couple of weeks jockeying for that top spot and running away from the rest of the pack.

Earlier this week the Prince George Spruce Kings were recognized for their strong play, earning an honourable mention in the weekly CJHL Top Twenty rankings. Through the past thirteen games, the Spruce Kings have picked up points in twelve of them (9-1-2-1).

The Spruce Kings offense has blossomed during that time as well with Chad Staley leading the way. With an even split of 12 goals and 12 assists, Staley has climbed into the top five among the BCHL Leading Scorers with a total of 33 points (14G, 19A). Not far behind in point production is linemate Jeremiah Luedtke who compiled 23 points (5G, 18A) in the past thirteen games and currently has 26 points overall (6G, 20A).

Offensive production has also come from the defensive core led by Christian Weidauer who has compiled twelve points in the past thirteen games including a big game last Saturday night. While celebrating his 20th birthday, Weidauer was the deciding factor in the third period helping the Spruce Kings come from behind to tie and eventually win 4-3.

Tonight’s game is the fourth meeting of the season between these two divisional opponents and will be the last time they see each other until well into the new year. The first three meetings were all held in Langley with the Spruce Kings picking up five of a possible six points with 2 wins and an overtime loss. Beginning on February 13, 2014, these two teams will play each other another five times over a three week window.

The Langley Rivermen would like to use tonight’s game to extend their current two game winning streak and give their busy weekend schedule an adrenaline boost. After a Thursday night off, the Rivermen will play Friday in Penticton, Saturday in West Kelowna and then Sunday afternoon back in Langley versus the Chilliwack Chiefs. It is one of the longest road trips of the season for the Rivermen aside from an early season three game trip through the BCHL’s Island Division.

The Spruce Kings, who are very accustomed to long road trips and three game weekend sets, get an uncharacteristic break this weekend with Thursday, Friday and Saturday off to prepare for their battle royale with the Powell River Kings on Sunday afternoon at 3pm.

Tonight's game will be broadcast online with the pay-per-view feed from and a free audio only online broadcast from the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning at 6:40pm with a pregame show. Ron St. Clair and Matt Wakeham will have the call of the game beginning with the puck drop at 7pm.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Game Day vs Salmon Arm Silverbacks

After a quick road trip to Langley Thursday, the Spruce Kings return home for the first of three in a row at the Castle. Tonight it will be the Interior Division Salmon Arm Silverbacks in their one and only regular season road trip to Prince George.

In Langley, Braiden Epp provided the spark scoring his first of the season early in the game after driving hard to the net and then bouncing the puck in off the back of the goaltender’s leg. Later in the game, Epp also helped set up Matt Painchaud for his first BCHL career goal.

Epp’s first star honours in that game were the result of continued hard work over the past month and a half by the Prince George hockey product. Coach Dave Dupas has been extremely happy with the work ethic shown and has rewarded that with more ice time and patience.

It’s never easy heading down the road for a single game and then having to return afterwards. The day turned into a full 24 hour road trip with the team arriving back at the Coliseum almost at the same moment they left the day before. Certainly the Salmon Arm Silverbacks aren’t about to show any sympathy because their road trip to Prince George was just as strenuous after playing in Langley last night.

The Silverbacks lost 3-2 to the Rivermen in overtime picking up a valuable single point in a tight Interior Division race. There are only four points separating the top five teams in that division – Merritt Centennials (34), Vernon Vipers (34), Penticton Vees (33), Salmon Arm Silverbacks (31) and West Kelowna Warriors (30).

The Mainland Division is turning into a two horse race for top spot. The Prince George Spruce Kings (15-8-2-2) come into tonight’s game with a single point lead over the Langley Rivermen (15-9-1-2) and both teams seeing action. The Coquitlam Express (24) defeated the Vees last night to put a little distance between them and the Surrey Eagles (21) while the Chilliwack Chiefs (17) continue to challenge for a playoff spot.

Tonight’s game will showcase one of the most offensive lines in the BCHL. Landon Smith (20G, 21A) leads the entire league with 41 points while team mates Evan Anderson (13G, 20A) and Alex Gillies (18G, 13A) both find spots in the top ten.

Chad Staley (13G, 16A) is the lone Spruce King in the top fifteen among league leading scorers. However, both goalies make the grade with top five showing in goals against average and save percentage. Jesse Jenks leads the way with a 2.37 GAA and .922 SV%, Alex Murray is expected to start tonight with a 2.46 GAA and .909 SV%.

Tonight's game will be broadcast online with the pay-per-view feed available from and a free audio only online broadcast through the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Game Day at Langley Rivermen

The Spruce Kings will be looking to stay ahead of the Langley in
tonight's PG Motors Feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive

The Spruce Kings take to the road today to defend top spot in the Mainland Division against the Langley Rivermen for a 7:15 showdown in the Langley Events Centre. The game is the third edition of the Prince George Motors feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive and will be broadcast live on Prince George's sports station beginning at 7pm.

It won't be easy one with the Langley Rivermen hungry to reclaim that number one position after giving it up last Friday night. Prior to staking a week long hold on the top spot, the Prince George Spruce Kings have been nipping at the heels of the Rivermen since late October. On November 10th, Prince George staked their first claim at the top but were only able to hold it for a day.

This week the ride at the top has been secondary after the Spruce Kings saw their ten game points streak come to an end in their last game after suffering their first regulation time loss since October 18th. The ten game record broke down into sixteen points (7-0-2-1) and featured a win and an overtime loss to the Langley Rivermen. Now with an overall record of 14-8-2-2, the Spruce Kings will be looking to put some padding between them and the second place Rivermen - who do have a game in hand.

Show Home Grand Opening This Sunday

PRINCE GEORGE, BC – The Prince George Spruce Kings Junior A Hockey Club is proud to announce the launch of the 32nd Annual Spruce Kings Show Home Lottery. The Show Home boasts many custom designed features making the home worth $491,225. Alongside the grand prize, there are a number of early bird prizes making the whole lottery worth over $519,000.

The Show Home is located at 2626 Links Drive in the Aberdeen Glen Subdivision of Prince George, British Columbia. Built by Scheck Construction, this year’s Show Home has 1702 square feet of living space and a partially finished basement. Modern accents paired with classic finishings bring out the warmth and desirability of the home.

"Brent (Scheck Construction) and his team have done a phenomenal job with this custom designed home," said Spruce Kings Communication Director, Ron Gallo. "This home has some truly technologically advanced features with the Home Alive automation system from Curtis Elite. The Northern Hardware has once again outdone themselves with appliances that will be included and the staging of this house. People will be excited about the prospect of winning of this home."

The Grand Opening of the Show Home is at 11am on Sunday November 24th. Show Home Lottery tickets are on sale now at Pine Centre Mall and Canadian Tire with other venues opening up soon. Tickets are also available for purchase over the phone by calling 250-962-IWIN (4946) or toll free from inside the Province of British Columbia at 1-855-962-IWIN (4946).

Tickets may be sold and purchased only in the Province of British Columbia and ticket purchasers must be 19 years of age or older. Rules of play, ticket locations and additional information can be retrieved from the Spruce Kings office, located in the Prince George Coliseum, or online from the Prince George Spruce Kings Show Home Lottery website.

For more information call the Spruce Kings office at 250.564.1747.

 Chances are 1 in 8,500 (total tickets for sale) to win a grand prize  BC Gaming Event Licence #59144  
 Problem Gambling Help Line: 1-888-795-6111
Know your limit, play within it. 19+    

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Game Day vs Surrey Eagles

The Prince George Spruce Kings reeled off a pair of hat tricks last night against the Surrey Eagles to take over sole possession of first place in the Mainland Division. Brogan O’Brien was the first to score in the game and would add a second, but it was on three shots in the second period by Brent Lashuk that opened the game up and led to the win.

The first shot was a bullet shot that saw the net bulge but the puck ripped right through the net and bounced off the back wall leaving people scratching their head as the play continued. The play went on for about two minutes before the next stoppage in play allowed the officials to converge and have a conversation on what may have happened.

Lashuk was awarded the goal, the clock was reset and the Spruce Kings forward scored twice more to record a natural hat trick in the game. Justin Rai also scored in the second period and O’Brien completed his hat trick with the only goal of the third period.

Double headers are an interesting thing and tough to claim both halves. The Surrey Eagles for sure will be inspired to take home at least a split in their first trip North and even up the season series again. Right now the Spruce Kings have that one game edge over the Eagles with a record of 2-1-1-0.

Last night started off with an emotional charge after the announcement that four of the recent scratches were back in the lineup. Jesse Jenks was also recognized for his bronze medal win with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge by the Mayor of Prince George.

Jenks will get the night off after coming up with a solid performance and Alex Murray will get the start tonight. The Spruce Kings are not expected to make any other changes to their lineup while the Surrey Eagles will get back Jonah Renouf after he served his one game suspension last night.

Tonight’s game is one of seven games in the BCHL with only the Vernon Vipers and the Merritt Centennials from the Interior Division being idle. With the race at the top of the standings catching a lot of people’s attention, the Powell River Kings will be looking to repeat against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs while the Langley Rivermen will want to rebound against the visiting Victoria Grizzlies.

The Powell River Kings currently sit in top spot overall with 33 points followed by the Prince George Spruce Kings (32) right behind them. The Langley Rivermen and the Penticton Vees are tied in third place with 31 points each.

Tonight's game has a scheduled start time of 7pm in the Prince George Coliseum. The game will be broadcast live online with a pay-per-option through and a free audio only broadcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with the pregame show at 6:40pm.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Game Day vs Surrey Eagles

Christian Weidauer (7) eludes a couple of checks
in a recent game against the Surrey Eagles

The Prince George Spruce Kings return to the Castle tonight for the first of two this weekend against the Surrey Eagles and a Mainland Divisional matchup. These two teams have met three times already this season – all of which were in Surrey – and have split the series evenly with a win, a loss and a tie.

The Spruce Kings current streak of picking up at least a point in nine consecutive games started in Surrey on October 19th with a 4-4 tie and since then has resulted in a record of 6-0-2-1. The Spruce Kings currently sit a point out of top spot in both the Mainland Division and the BCHL as a whole. This all comes despite being short-handed to the tune of six players during that time.

Jake LeBrun makes his return to the linuep tonight after missing out on the team’s previous 14 games due to a concussion suffered in a game on October 4th. Cole Todd makes his return after missing the previous 4 games after an injury he suffered in the last meeting with the Surrey Eagles. Sean Landrey is also back in the lineup tonight after missing three games as a result of an upper body injury on November 2nd in Langley.

Jesse Jenks also returns to the Spruce Kings for his first game since October 24th. Jenks was away making a name for himself while playing in every game for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge and helping his team win a bronze medal in the International tournament. Mitch Barker (day-to-day) is still out of the lineup as is Bryant Christian who is out long term and not expected back until mid-December at the earliest.

Even with all of the injuries the Spruce Kings have been finding ways to win and pick up valuable points thanks in large part to the play of Chad Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Brent Lashuk. The three have been on fire as of late and have combined for a total of 42 points (17 goals and 25 assists) in the past nine games.

Staley picked up Player of the Week honours after posting 10 points (4G, 6A) in three games over the weekend. Luedtke has a ten game point streak himself with 5 goals and 12 assists in that stretch. To aid the top line, the Spruce Kings have been getting secondary scoring from their younger players and the defence continues to chip in as well.

Tonight’s game is the first of a double header against the Surrey Eagles with both teams hungry for the much needed points. The Eagles (9-14-1-0) would like the points to leap over the Coquitlam Express (9-9-0-2) and their 20 points as well as pull away from the Chilliwack Chiefs (5-14-1-2) who have been closing the gap on Surrey over the past little while.

Game time tonight is 7pm with the game broadcast live through the pay-per-view feed on and the free audio only through the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with the pregame show at 6:40pm. The two teams will be back at it again tomorrow night in the Coliseum.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Game Day at Salmon Arm Silverbacks

The Prince George Spruce Kings will finish off their three game Interior Division road trip this weekend with a stop in Salmon Arm for a matinee game versus the Silverbacks. It is the first meeting of the season between these two teams and could be tough to match what the Spruce Kings have already been through this weekend. After the long bus trip into Trail for Friday's game and last night's double overtime game that took almost four hours to play, a nice simple game would be ideal for Prince George.

This will probably turn into another memorable BCHL game as both teams want the two points that are up for grabs. The Salmon Arm Silverbacks (11-8-1-1) sit in fifth spot in the Interior Division, two points back of the West Kelowna Warriors (12-6-0-2) while the Spruce Kings (12-7-2-2) are one point back of the Langley Rivermen (13-6-1-2) and top spot in the Mainland Division. Interestingly enough, a Prince George win would catapult the Spruce Kings to first overall in the entire British Columbia Hockey League!

This comes with six players out of the lineup - Jake LeBrun, Bryant Christian, Sean Landrey, Cole Todd and Mitch Barker are all still out with injuries and Jesse Jenks is making his way back from the World Junior A Challenge where Team Canada West won bronze. Prince George has called upon reserves to help fill the voids and have been getting exceptional play from their young guns and veteran players stepping up to take on additional roles.

One player that is loving the extra ice time is Chad Staley and he has delivered this weekend with four goals and three assists picking up his second BCHL career hat trick last night in Vernon. Staley opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal and added two more powerplay goals to extend his season total to 12 goals and 11 assists in 23 games. The point production has put the second year player into the League's Top Twenty scoring race.

That leaderboard is currently being led by Salmon Arm Silverbacks sniper Landon Smith (14G, 18A) in his first year in the BCHL. Smith is an import from Denver Colorado that played the previous two seasons in the USHL and is committed for next season to the University of Denver. Sitting in thirteenth spot on that leaderboard is Alex Gillies, another Silverbacks player playing on a line with Smith.

The Silverbacks have a lot of offensive weapons and despite sitting fifth overall in their division, lead the Interior Division with an average of 3.62 goals a game. This could be an offense versus defense game as the Spruce Kings come in with a 2.61 goals against average and an ever improving penalty kill. In last night's game they held the Vipers off the scoreboard on their man advantages and even scored a shorthanded goal. The Silverbacks penalty kill is also pretty good and is currently ranked second in the BCHL.

This is one of those games that the tale of the tape really has nothing to add and only sixty minutes or more will ultimately be required to sort out these two teams in their first meeting of the season. The game is a 3pm start in Salmon Arm and will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-feed through and a free audio only online feed from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with the pregame show at 2.40pm. Following the game, the team will head home with an expected arrival time of 2am, barring any extenuating circumstances. Members of the Spruce Kings will being participating in Monday's Remembrance Day ceremonies in Prince George.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Everything But a Winner

Karan Toor (10) lays out a heavy hit,
but it wasn't the heaviest hit of the game

In a game that featured literally everything, except a winner, the Prince George Spruce Kings extended their points in a game streak to eight games after settling for a 4-4 double overtime tie versus the Vernon Vipers. Chad Staley had a four point night picking up his second BCHL career hattrick and adding an assist, but that doesn't even compare to the exploding glass and fireworks late in the third period.

After a slow start to the game, everybody in the rink was commenting about how they had never seen a game with so much excitement and would have like to see this one go longer than it did. The first ten minutes of the game featured a single shot on goal by each team and no chances. To say this game was looking like a dud was an understatement as most of the play happened between the blue lines. During the BCHL timeout, somebody flicked a switch and the game immediately turned to one the fans and players won't soon forget.

A one-time member of the Prince George Spruce Kings, as a fifteen year old draft choice, provided the first real spark to the game. Tyler Povelofskie fired a shot into the Spruce Kings zone that bounced off the wall and came back at Alex Murray, bouncing through the goaltender that left the crease to play it. The puck landed in the crease and looked like an easy goal just waiting for Povelofskie to find, but Murray was able to dive back to the net and get a glove on it before that could happen. The Vernon Vipers forward fell on Murray and in the melee that followed, Skylar Pacheco received a two minute minor for high sticking.

The Vernon Vipers powerplay looked dangerous with cross crease passes and hard point shots, but Murray saw them all and stopped them all. The Vipers tallied five shots on goal during the powerplay and were looking for a sixth from the right point when Mark Hamilton (yes the player that hit Jake LeBrun) lost an edge and fell down unable to reach the puck. Chad Staley jumped on the loose puck and headed up the ice with only the linesman between him and the goaltender at the other end.

The official got caught in no-man's land and fortunately just froze in place about five feet from the boards. Staley took the outside lane to get around the official in front of the Vernon Vipers player's bench and then made his cut to net. The speed of Staley was too much for Austin Smith to handle and he couldn't get in good position as Staley found the top corner with a back hand flip. Staley's tenth goal of the season came with five seconds still remaining in Pacheco's penalty on just the second Prince George shot on goal at 14:27 of the opening period.

With the game now getting exciting to watch, the place was about to erupt. The Spruce Kings used that goal as a momentum shift and started on the attack again. On a play in the Vernon end, Braiden Epp lined up a defenceman against the back wall for a hit and did he hit him. The glass behind the net exploded leaving fragments of glass all over the ice behind the net and extending up four rows in the seats behind. The players were left with bits of glass in their equipment that had to be taken out.

This happened with 5:10 remaining in the opening period and at 7:30pm local time. It was thought that the delay would take about ten to fifteen minutes, leaving the players on the ice waiting to resume the play. Unfortunately it started to take a little longer than that to clean up the broken glass and then the wrong piece of glass came out. It was then decided that the players should go to the dressing room for an early first intermission break. In all the delay took just over an hour as the team's were brought back to resume play at 8:32pm.

The Spruce Kings would add two more shots in the last five minutes and the Vipers one in a period that took 90 minutes in all to play. In the second period, the Spruce Kings started to find their stride again and were getting some scoring chances that led to their first powerplay. Prince George controlled much of the man advantage and as they worked the puck around the perimeter and back to Karan Toor, it was the defenceman that took the big point shot only to have it blocked by his own guy. Chad Staley picked up the puck, looked at the net, saw the goaltender had gone down looking to make the save and fired into the top half of the net for his second goal of the game and eleventh of the game giving Prince George a 2-0 lead.

The Vernon Vipers would get that one back a few minutes later off a nice solo effort from Liam Coughlin who followed cut to the net from the left wall and outwaited Murray before lifting a back hander into the far top side corner. The goal gave the Vipers life and they started to come on leading to fluky goal from Povelofskie. Playing in his twentieth game of the season and in front of parents on parent's weekend in Vernon, Povelofskie drove hard to the net and had to retrieve the puck from below the goal line.

Looking to make a centring pass, he shot the puck out just as Spruce Kings defender Danny Kiraly dove feet first to block the pass. Unfortunately the puck would catch Kiraly's skate and was kicked towards the far side post where it just squeezed in over the line. There was a short conversation as to whether or not the puck actually crossed the line but it was counted, tieing the game at two goals a-piece. That's how the second period would end with Prince George credited with ten shots on goal for a two period total of 14 and Vernon getting eight more for a two period total of 16.

As all the other games in the BCHL were coming to a close, this one was just heading into the third period. Prince George would again put the pressure on the Vernon Vipers, hemming them in their own end. In a play that saw the puck roll along the dasher board from the corner to just before the glass ends at the Vipers bench, Jeremiah Luedtke grabbed it off the wall to keep the play alive. Luedtke was able to play the puck enough to get it to Chad Staley who came in and picked up the puck out of feet and then fed it across the ice to Christian Weidauer who came in off the right point untouched and fired in his fifth of the season giving the Spruce Kings back their lead.

The play would go back and forth with the Vernon Vipers getting the better of the chances, but again Alex Murray stood tall in net and would not give up that tying goal. The Spruce Kings would find themselves on their third powerplay of the game just past the midway mark of the third period. The Prince George powerplay looked impressive on this night and for 54 seconds Mitch Eden quarterbacked the man advantage from the top slot before finally getting the shot he wanted from the right point. The shot got through traffic and was laying in the paint between the feet of Staley who tapped it backwards between his feet and through the five hole of Smith to restore Prince George's two goal lead.

The Vernon Vipers would not go away and less than a minute later they had clawed their way back into this game with a shot that found its way through Murray at 13:07 to make it a 4-3 game. In everything that had gone on to this point in the game, the Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game was just about to be played out.

Hit last night with a high elbow but able to play in tonight's game, Braiden Epp became the centre of attention again when he was reaching for the puck against the wall in his own zone and was hit from behind while in an awkward position. Matty Saharchuk leveled Epp leaving the Prince George forward on the ice. The players came together in a scrum and were pushing and shoving and jawing at each other. Christian Weidauer and TJ Dumonceaux came together and looked like they may go when Dumonceaux dropped his gloves and started trying to land a shot.

Ryan Dawson, one of the linesman came in to seperate the two players and as he did he was hit a first time by Dumonceaux. It looked like that was where it was going to end but the Vipers forward continued to try and get loose from the clutches of Dawson and then with another right, Dumonceaux connected but it was the face of Dawson that he hit sending the linesman crashing to the ice where he laid for over thirty seconds. Cam Smith, the Spruce Kings trainer who was already on the ice attending to Epp, went to the official to offer help. The official had been cut and there was blood on the ice as he got up holding a cloth to his face.

Thinking that Vipers would get a five minute major for the Saharchuk boarding call and a two minute instigator penalty to Dumonceaux for dropping the gloves and looking to start a fight, the referee surprised everybody and called just a single minor for the boarding, gave both Weidauer and Dumonceaux ten minute misconducts and a game misconduct to Dumonceaux for tagging the official. The strange interpretation of what happened left the Spruce Kings in disbelieve and provided a source of inspiration for the Vipers.

Prince George didn't get much of anything on the man advantage and as the penalty came to an end, it was the Vipers that went on the offensive and found the equalizer with three minutes still to play in regulation time. Neither team could score in the remaining time leading to overtime where both teams would again trade chances in end to end rushes combining for 17 shots on goal in total in the extra time. The Vernon Vipers finished with 9 shots through overtime for a game total of 41 and the Spruce Kings were credited with 8 shots for a game total of 28.

The single point extended the Spruce Kings points per game streak to eight games with five wins, and three overtime decisions including two 4-4 ties dating back to October 21st versus the Surrey Eagles. Prince George remains one point back of the Langley Rivermen for top spot in the Mainland Division and will now go looking to claim top spot with a win in Salmon Arm. It is the first meeting of the season with the Silverbacks who are coming off of a 3-2 come from behind win over the Trail Smoke Eaters Saturday night.

Game Day at Vernon Vipers

The Prince George Spruce Kings make their second of three stops through the Interior Division in Vernon tonight to face the 2014 RBC Royal Bank Cup host team, the Vernon Vipers. Let's get this out of the way first ... for quite a few Prince George fans, what they remember and know about the opponent tonight is they are the reason the Spruce Kings are missing Jake LeBrun. Although the injury did happen on October 4th back in Prince George when a LeBrun was hit against the side wall from behind by a Vernon Vipers player, the focus tonight is not on retribution.

Since October 4th, the Spruce Kings have seen a long list of players leave the ice with injuries that have stretched now into 40 missed games between them. LeBrun has missed 12 games so far and is scheduled to miss tonight's and tomorrow's game before expecting to return next weekend. Bryant Christian has missed four games so far but is expected to be out for the rest of the month of November and into the month of December. Mitch Barker has missed five games now but is expected to ready to return shortly. Sean Landrey and Cole Todd are unable to play this weekend after suffering injuries last weekend.

The Spruce Kings feel they have dodged a bullet after Braiden Epp was hit against the glass at centre ice on a play that resulted in a five minute major for a blow to the head and a game misconduct to the offending player. That hit was the fourth in a series of hits that appeared to be targeted on key players on the Spruce Kings roster. Brogan O'Brien, Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke were also all hit late in the game with borderline illegal checks. In all of that the Spruce Kings have strung together a seven game points streak with five wins and two overtime decisions.

The team has dealt with the injuries and other adversary they have had to face by not giving up. Instead they have found ways to win and continue to play an exciting brand of hockey that has endeared fans to them everywhere they go. Tonight those fans may be few and far between as they play a team fighting for top spot in the Interior Division on their parent's weekend. The Vernon Vipers (11-6-1-4) are currently tied with the Merritt Centennials (13-9-1-0) with 27 points, one up on the Penticton Vees (12-4-1-1) but the Vees do have one game in hand.

The Prince George Spruce Kings (12-7-1-2) are in their own fight for top spot in the Mainland Division, currently sitting one point back of the Langley Rivermen (13-6-1-1). A win tonight could potential give the Spruce Kings that top spot if the Merritt Centennials can do what they did last night - beat the Rivermen. Finding themselves in that battle for top spot is what drives the Spruce Kings these days as they may very well be the most close knit team that Prince George has ever seen. Doing whatever it takes and winning games for each other, including those not in the lineup, provides the motivation.

Over the years, these two teams have had some epic games and tonight very well may turn into another one for all of the reasons listed above and then some. Winning one for Jake LeBrun, ranks up there as does winning one for Sean Landrey and the newest member of the team - Mike Iovanna. In three years, Landrey has played some of his best games in the Vernon arena and a few players know that he was always good for a goal in the building. For Iovanna this is his fourth game with the his new team and first chance to play against his former team.

After struggling with no points through fourteen games, Iovanna was acquired in a trade to help fill the void of missing LeBrun and Bryant Christian. Although he went a fifteenth game without a point, Iovanna changed that in his second game with his new team after knocking down a puck and breaking in on a goal for his first of the season. Last night, the speedy winger joined Brogan O'Brien on one of his rushes and was able to tap in the puck on the short side for his second BCHL goal and second in as many games. This sets up the former Viper nicely for his return to Kal Tire Place and a chance to extend that scoring streak to three games.

Prior to last night's game, Alex Murray said of traveling all day to Trail that the team "didn't come all this way to go home empty handed." Murray backed up those words with some strong play in net coming up with momentum turning saves in all three periods. Murray came up with 26 of 28 saves and quite a few of them were of the highlight reel variety including one in the second period that he was able to throw his hand back and catch the puck with the heel of his catching glove before it crossed the goal line.

Another player that has been taking charge of the game is Mitch Eden. In the third period of last night's game, Eden scored the eventual winner on a shot that never hit the ice but did "break the goal plane" before being batted out of the air from behind the Smoke Eaters goaltender. The play of Brent Lashuck since returning from his injury and being placed on a line with Chad Staley and Jeremiah has turned this line into arguably the best line right now in the BCHL. Creating chance after chance and collecting points in all but one game since Lashuck's return, this line plays in all situations and is eating up their ice time and loving it.

Since losing 3-0 to the Spruce Kings back on October 4th in Prince George, the Vernon Vipers have put together own impressive string of points with eight wins and two overtime losses in twelve games. All of which has resulted in an improvement to both their average goals for (3.27) and goals against (3.14) in a game. Although the goals for is a little bit lower for Prince George (2.82), the Spruce Kings have one of the best goals against average allowing only 2.55 goals against per game.

A lot of those numbers can be attributed to the strong play between the pipes by both Murray and Jesse Jenks (who is still away with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge). A lot of credit also has to go to the defensemen and a complete team defense first philosophy instilled by head coach Dave Dupas and assistant coach Colton Buffie. The coaching tandem on the road coupled with the assistant coach Jason Garneau and Stew Malgunas at home has the players completely buying into the program and that can be seen in the unselfish plays being made by players diving in front of point shots to make the block.

The larger ice surface tonight should not play in either team's favour as both teams played last night. The Spruce Kings did have to make the trip through the night from Trail to Vernon, but bunks on the bus and a little more time to rest this morning should have helped with the travel. The game tonight is a 7pm start and will be broadcast online through the usual pay-per-view feed on and the free online audio only feed from the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with the pregame show at 6:40pm.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spruce Kings Snuff Out the Smoke Eaters

Already down six players, there was a lot of concern after
Braiden Epp was hit against the boards late in the game

The Prince George Spruce Kings started off their three game Interior Division road trip with a 5-2 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters Friday night. An otherwise close game was blown open when the Spruce Kings scored on back-to-back powerplays to pull away from the Smoke Eaters. The win, coupled with a Langley Rivermen's loss, leaves the Spruce Kings just one point back of top spot in the Mainland Division and tied for third overall in the BCHL.

The game featured some unbelievable saves by both goaltenders who robbed the other teams of goals that would have otherwise seen this game get completely out of hand. In the end, a small blunder that saw the puck left sitting in the crease resulted in the eventual game winning goal. Other than that, goals were hard to come by especially in the first fifty minutes with both teams having chances to turn a close game into a blowout.

The game's first goal was the result of another strong play by the team's youngest player - Brogran O'Brien. With injuries changing the complexion of the Spruce Kings roster and line combinations, the sixteen year old found himself centering a line with Mike Iovanna and Justin Rai on the wings. Five minutes into the first period, Skylar Pacheco spotted the youngster along the right side wall and let O'Brien do most of the work from there.

O'Brien drove hard down the wall and then cut to the net as he entered the zone. He fired the first shot on goal hard enough to have the rebound bounce out to the left side of the net where Iovanna was waiting to send his second of the season and second in as many games into the back of the net. The goal would hold up for just over seven minutes before a former Spruce King would get his second of the season.

At 10:04 of the first period, O'Brien was called for tripping put the Smoke Eaters on the first man advantage of the game. Although they were unable to score on their first powerplay, they were able to gain some momentum off a wild flurry in the final twenty seconds with the extra attacker. Alex Murray turned aside all three glorious scoring opportunities that Trail came up with.

A few seconds after the penalty expired, a stoppage in play resulted in the BCHL which has become known for its trademark ability to create exciting scoring chances. This one would turn into a goal for the Trail Smoke Eaters as Cody Bardock found the puck at the top of the left side faceoff circle and waited for the Spruce Kings defenceman to become his own screen. Bardock shot the puck high to the blocker side through the screen finding the top corner behind Murray who had no chance to make the save.

After that goal, it was the Spruce Kings that went on the attack for the final seven minutes. Prince George fired a number of shots in on Riley Corbin who stood tall in net for the Trail Smoke Eaters and came up with some saves that could have easily seen the game get out of hand in the first period. Instead the first period would end with the teams tied 1-1 and the Spruce Kings leading 14-9 on the shot clock.

Five minutes into the second period and Karan Toor would start a play that he would be able to finish as well. After being hemmed inside their own zone for the better part of shift, it was Toor that found the puck and was able to get out. Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke took over from there and carried the puck into the Smoke Eaters end. Unable to get a clear shot on goal, the puck came back to Toor who was waiting for it in the high slot. He too would wait for the seam to open up and fired another high shot, this time to the glove side, that found the top corner for the defenceman's fourth goal of the season.

A few minutes later it would be another defenceman that would spot Prince George a two goal lead. Skylar Pacheco carried the puck down the wall and fired a hard shot to near side post that the goaltender stopped. Most of all the other shots that Corbin took off the body were bouncing out to the other side so the goaltender slid to his right only to leave the puck behind sitting loose in the crease not six inches from his big pads. Pacheco spotted that puck and was able to tap home the eventual game winner and his seventh of the season to make the score 3-1.

The Trail Smoke Eaters were not about to go away just yet and would get a bounce of their own when the Spruce Kings were guilty of a soft D-to-D pass. Travis Stephens, the Smoke Eaters leading scorer, blocked the pass and sprung himself loose on a break-away with Jake Kauppila in on the rush. Stephens drove hard to the net and then slid the cross-crease pass over to Kauppila who banged in his fifth of the season. Although that gave the home side a spark, it would never be ignited as it was the last goal that Trail would score on the night.

It was beginning to look like neither team was going to score another goal as both sides continued to have chances although most of them were going to the Spruce Kings. The Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game would come just past the midway mark of the third period when Cody Bardock was called for a high stick. It was only the second powerplay of the game for Prince George who had already given up four powerplay chances to the Trail Smoke Eaters.

A minute into that second man advantage and Mitch Eden would work his way from the left point to the faceoff circle where he snapped a hard shot. The shot was a little over waist high catching the goaltender on the outside of the arm. The puck bounced up and over the goaltender and broke the plane of the goal with the referee standing right there. Although the puck never hit the ice as it was batted out of mid air by the defender and the goal light never came on, the referee indicated goal giving Prince George a 4-2 lead in the game.

The goal seemed to deflate the Smoke Eaters who never really got another good chance to cut into that lead. A couple of minutes later in a goal mouth exchange, Scott Davidson two handed Justin Rai across the mouth resulting in a double minor. Rai would also be assessed a penalty for roughing, but that still left Prince George with their third man advantage. Again about a minute in, the Spruce Kings would cash in off a signature move by Chad Staley.

The second year vet, and now the team's leading goal scorer, swooped in under the goal line behind the net and fed the puck back out to Jeremiah Luedtke who was following on the play. Luedtke's shot was stopped in another rob job by the goaltender but the rebound came out to Staley who came around the net found the puck and waited to take his shot before firing it high to the blocker side of Corbin.

Staley's ninth of the season gave Prince George the 5-2 lead and all but put the game out of reach for the Smoke Eaters, who then seemed to become frustrated and started taking a few runs at Prince George players. Certainly the Spruce Kings do not need to lose anymore players to injury already down six players, five to injury. Brogan O'Brien was caught from behind and hit against the back wall with no call. Luedtke and Staley were also tagged with questionable hits that came after the play with no call.

With less than three minutes to go in the third period, Braiden Epp had the puck along the wall and was able to get rid of it just as Valik Chickkin came in with a flying elbow to the head. Again there was no indication that the referee was going to make the call as Epp lay on the ice. A few Spruce King players had enough and there was some pushing and shoving and few words exchanged. The linesman who saw the hit informed the referee of the dangerous hit and a five minute major for a blow to the head was called resulting in a game misconduct to Chichkin.

The Spruce Kings used the powerplay to kill off the remaining time in the period and leave the Comico Arena with two points and their twelfth win of the season. The three stars on the night included Mitch Eden, Jeremiah Luedtke and Chad Staley; although a number of other players could have been seriously considered for the honour including both goaltenders. Prince George peppered Corbin with a total of 43 shots while Murray picked up his eighth win of the season stopping 26 of 28 shots he faced.

After the game, the Spruce Kings got back on the bus and headed for Vernon where they will meet up with the Vipers on Saturday night in Kal Tire Place at 7pm. The game is the first meeting between the two teams since the infamous hit on Jake LeBrun that has resulted in the Prince George hockey product missing out on twelve games and counting. With the extent of injuries to the Spruce Kings lineup, the expectations is that there will be some emotion on the ice but the only kind of retribution Prince George will be looking for will be on the scoreboard.

Game Day vs Trail Smoke Eaters

The Prince George Spruce Kings start a three game Interior Division road trip tonight with a stop in Trail. The road trip will continue with stops in Vernon and Salmon Arm. The road miles alone make this trip an interesting one, coupled with the scratches and this road trip will be a demanding one. Getting started with a win will go along way to erasing the miles and the scars in the roster.

The Smoke Eaters (5-14-2-1) are a team looking to find their identity after a poor start to the season led to a change behind the bench. The new head coach is Nick Deschenes, who was into his second season as the head coach and general manager of the Grand Forks Border Bruins of the Kootenay International Hockey League, was hired on October 28th. Deschenes is said to be "more concerned with the effort on the ice than necessarily the score on the board."

Last weekend the Smokies ended a ten game losing streak with a tie (4-4 vs the Victoria Grizzlies) and win a big 5-1 road win over the West Kelowna Warriors. The three points will have injected some adrenaline into the practices earlier this week and no doubt will result in a different looking team then what their record would suggest.

As mentioned the Spruce Kings may have the better record but may be considered the underdogs in this contest after the long travel day Thursday to get from Prince George to Castlegar and the scratches. Not making the trip this weekend are Bryant Christian, Jake LeBrun, Sean Landrey, Mitch Barker, Cole Todd and Jesse Jenks. The first five players are all out with injuries while Jenks is away at the World Junior A Challenge playing for Team Canada West.

To help fill some of the holes in the roster, the Spruce Kings have picked up three affiliate players (AP) for the weekend. From the Aldergrove Kodiaks, goaltender Tate Sproxton spent the week in Prince George practicing with the team in the absence of the Jenks. Donovan Law and Connor Sloan were picked up from the 100 Mile House Wranglers as the team headed down the highway. Law has already played one game for Prince George back on October 26th when the team defeated the Cowichan Valley Capitals 3-2. This will be the first experience of Junior A hockey for Sloan who is from the West Kelowna area.

Despite the long list of scratches, the Prince George Spruce Kings have strung together a six game point streak including four straight wins. They come into tonight's game after suffering an overtime loss in their last outing. The game was a close one and might have ended differently if a penalty call would have been made on a play that saw Sean Landrey have his feet taken out from under him while on a break-away rush to the net in double overtime. Any penalty called in second overtime period automatically results in a penalty shot.

Prince George will need to stick to their game plan that has been working in those previous six games and that is to tied or better with their opponent and capitalize on chances while remaining defensively sound. The Spruce Kings are still one of the stingiest teams in the BCHL with a 2.57 goals against average per game. Only the Penticton Vees (2.18) and Powell River Kings (2.22) have allowed fewer goals on average than Prince George.

The team's offense has been coming on as of late and since Brent Lashuk has returned to the lineup (coincidentally that happened six games ago), the line of Chad Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Lashuk have been lighting the lamp to tune of 12 of 22 Prince George goals. In the overtime loss, that line was held off the scoresheet which is something that the Trail Smoke Eaters will have to hope to do.

The last goal scored by a member of the Spruce Kings was an unassisted tally from the newest addition to the team's full roster. Mike Iovanna was acquired a week ago from the Vernon Vipers and has since found a home with a lot of ice time and, with that, a lot of chances to put up points. Iovanna becomes a player to watch in tonight's game as he looks to fine tune his game on the night before his return to Vernon.

A player to watch from the Trail Smoke Eaters lineup is Tyson Witala who will be ready for another opportunity to play against his former team. After an off-season trade to Trail, Witala is second in team scoring with 7 goals and 8 assists, picking up two of those helpers in a 4-2 win over the Spruce Kings in Prince George back on September 21st. Jesse Knowler is another name to take note of after wining over the coach with his strong play last weekend with five points (1G, 4A) in two games.

Game time tonight from the Cominco Arena is 7:30pm with the game broadcast live online through the pay-per-feed on and free audio only feed through the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with the pregame show at 7:10pm. Following the game, the Spruce Kings will head back towards Vernon to continue their Interior Division road trip against the Vipers on Saturday night.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Single Point in Double Overtime

Alex Murray (35) making one of his best saves of the night
while the teams were playing 3-on-3 in double overtime

Despite being down six players, the Prince George Spruce Kings found a way to get a single point in their game Saturday night against the Langley Rivermen. The Spruce Kings came up one play short of taking both points but had to head home with only the single point after a 3-2 double overtime loss. The point extended the Spruce Kings consecutive point streak to six games with four wins and two overtime decisions in that span.

The Spruce Kings went into the contest with a short bench as the injuries continue to mount up. Heading into the weekend, Bryant Christian was added to the long term injured list after suffering a facial injury that required Christian to return home for surgery. Jake LeBrun is still on the long term injury list, but is expected to start skating with the team next week and is expected to make a return to the game in mid-November. Mitch Barker was also unable to make the trip suffering from a lower body injury that shouldn't have an impact on his return for next weekend.

The only healthy scratch from this weekend is that of Jesse Jenks who is away at the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia playing for Team Canada West. In Friday night's game, both Justin Rai and Cole Todd were hit with high dangerous hits in two different plays that saw the same result - both forwards left for the dressing room and did not return. Both players have returned home and are expected to miss out on the three games next weekend.

On Thursday, the Prince George Spruce Kings completed a trade with the Vernon Vipers to add Mike Iovanna to their lineup. The team also called up a pair of affiliate players, Jackson Waniek a right handed forward and Tate Sproxton a goaltender. The two forward additions to the roster would both contribute on Saturday night with their first BCHL career goals in the second period to spot the Spruce Kings a 2-1 lead.

The game's first goal came in the first period of play on the Rivermen's fifth shot on goal. Off a faceoff in the Spruce Kings zone, the puck would make its way back to the left point, Chris Forney took the original shot that Skylar Pacheco was able to block. Alex Murray found himself out of position as the puck bounced off of his defenceman back to the left faceoff circle where Matt Ustaski was waiting to fire in his eight of the season.

Early in the second period, from almost the same spot on the ice, Mitch Eden would lob a shot in on net that Jackson Waniek was able to tip in past Steve Myland to tie the game at a goal apiece. The harmless looking shot became a shot of adrenaline for the Prince George bench who were looking for anything positive to build on. A few minutes later, the newest member of the Spruce Kings would shake off a 15 game drought with a hard working play. Mike Iovanna stripped the puck off the Langley forward just outside the Spruce Kings zone. Iovanna went in on an angle to the Rivermen net with a defenceman draped all over him. Iovanna faked with the forehand, pulled the puck to his backhand and lifted a shot past the blocker of Myland.

The Spruce Kings go-ahead goal forced Bobby Henderson, the Langley Rivermen's head coach and general manager, to call his team's timeout with just over five minutes played in the second period. The Spruce Kings would hold onto their slim one goal lead for the next twelve minutes but unfortunately for Prince George, a penalty would lead to the tying goal. With Mitch Eden in the box for tripping, the Rivermen worked the puck around the right side until they could sneak a back door pass through the seam for Ustaski to tap in his second of the night with less than two minutes remaining in the second period.

In the third period, both teams would trade chance for chance looking for the lead in regulation time that wouldn't come. In overtime the Langley Rivermen were credited with six shots on goal while the Spruce Kings were credited with only one. The best chance for Prince George came about a minute and half into the second overtime period when Sean Landrey jumped up on the rush, split a pair of defenders and went in hard on Myland. Landrey had his feet taken out from under him and fell heavily and awkwardly into the end boards.

The Rivermen headed up the other end of the ice on an odd-man rush with a chance to end it. Alex Murray stared down the Rivermen and came up with a highlight reel save. On the ensuing faceoff, the Rivermen found themselves in deep with two player wide on either side of the net. Kevin Kilistoff spotted James Robinson on the far side and fed the puck over for the one-timer. Murray dove over and was able to get a good piece of the puck, but it wasn't enough as it fluttered over the goaltender and fell into the back of the net.

The Rivermen ended up outshooting Prince George 35-20 but through it all the Spruce Kings remained just one shot away from winning it and that made for an entertaining game for all those that watched on. Following the game, the Spruce Kings returned home with only 18 players on the bus. The team will look at some options, hope for a player or two to return from the injured list and prepare for another big weekend road trip. Next weekend the Spruce Kings will complete their Interior Division road games with stops in Trail on Friday, Vernon on Saturday and Salmon Arm on Sunday afternoon.