Sunday, September 29, 2013

Game Day at Coquitlam Express

"We have a chance to make a good weekend, a great one." is just one of the things an obviously proud Spruce Kings General Manager said after another gutsy effort by the team resulted in the team's fourth come-from-behind victory of the season last night.

The Spruce Kings on the last leg of a three game weekend through the Mainland Division with the final stop being a return visit to the "Train Station" in Coquitlam. On Friday night the Spruce Kings started the weekend by erasing a 2-0 deficit, winning 3-2. Last night the team had to put a last minute goal in the first period and a disallowed goal in the second behind them to post a 2-1 regulation time win over the Chilliwack Chiefs.

In both games, third period heroics from the netminder seemingly fueled the players on the bench and provided the spark for those on the ice to complete the come backs. It was Jesse Jenks on Friday night making a number of key saves and then Alex Murray on Saturday night with the save of the season.

The Spruce Kings will now head back to the arena on Poirier Street in Coquitlam with confidence and a little swagger in their step, but what they are going to really need is to bring the same focus and determination that they had with them in the two previous games.

The Coquitlam Express were not impressed with the narrow loss on home ice and turned a day off into a working day as the team reconvened on Saturday for an extra session on the ice. They then did a little scoreboard watching as both Prince George and the Surrey Eagles posted wins to pull away. The only solice for the Express on last night's scoreboard was knowing that they maintained their position on the Chilliwack Chiefs and Langley Rivermen.

Of the five teams in the Mainland Division, only the Surrey Eagles (5-3-0-0) are off today as the other four play in rare Sunday games. The Langley Rivermen will complete a three game weekend themselves in Nanaimo against the 4-2-0-0 Clippers and the Chilliwack Chiefs (1-3-1-0) will host a Salmon Arm Silverbacks squad coming off a 4-2 win over the Victoria Grizzlies.

Turning a good weekend into a great one will take a lot more than just showing up with a pair of wins in your back pocket today as the Spruce Kings complete their first of many three game road weekends today at 2pm. The game broadcast will be available as a pay-per-view feed on with an option to listen live to the free online audio only broadcast from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

Following the game, the team will make the ten hour trek home to start preparing for a pair of home games against the Vernon Vipers on Friday and the Victoria Grizziles on Saturday.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Save of the Season Leads to a Saturday Night Win

Alex Murray dives across the open net
making the save of the season

The Spruce Kings rolled into Chilliwack for the Chiefs home opener on Saturday night and rolled out with their fourth win of the season and sole possession of second place in the Mainland Division. It was a narrow 2-1 victory that could have easily gone the other way had it not been for the save of the season.

Early in the third period, with the game tied 1-1 and the Spruce Kings killing off a penalty taken late in the second period, the Chilliwack Chiefs intercepted a clearing attempt inside the Spruce Kings zone. Austin Plevy found the puck and then spotted Jared Babych standing all alone at the far side of the net.

Plevy feathered the puck through the top of the crease to his waiting team mate. Babych fired the one timer on net only to find a diving Alex Murray in mid flight reaching out his glove hand. The puck bounced off the inside of the glove and took flight towards the open net where Murray knocked the puck out of the air with his goal stick. With Murray sailing away from the crease and the puck bouncing loose in the blue paint, Mitch Eden came sliding through in a stacked pad fashion to kick the puck out of harm's way.

The save happened early in the third period, but provided a monumental shift in the game as the Spruce Kings rallied around that save and eventually scored the game winner mid-way through the final period. In two consecutive games, the team built on saves made by the goaltenders to complete come-back victories.

Going back to the beginning of the game, the Spruce Kings found themselves without their captain after Bryant Christian was given an automatic one game suspension for picking up a second goaltender interference call the night before. The absence of Christian was very apparent as the Spruce Kings struggled with chemistry after having to shake up most of their lines. Chad Staley came up to play centre with Jake LeBrun and Brent Lashuk.

Meanwhile Jeremiah Luedtke was left without his usual linemates and instead was on a made up line with Braiden Epp and Danny Kiraly who was moved up from the blueline to fill the vacancy. That lack of chemistry was quite evident in the second period when players seemed to be just out of reach of the loose pucks around the net.

In the first period, the well rested Chiefs tried to jump on the Spruce Kings early getting a number of key shots on goal, but it wouldn't be until the final minute of the opening period before they would get a shot that counted. The Chiefs were on a two man advantage with Mitch Eden and Skylar Pacheco in the penalty box for infractions made a minute apart. Shay Laurent, who was returned to the Chilliwack Chiefs just days earlier, kept the play alive and found Austin Plevy along the goal line. Plevy fed the puck through the crease to a wide open Joey Diamantoni on the back door. All Diamantoni had to do was direct the puck into the wide open net for the game's first goal.

In the second period the Spruce Kings were the better team and controlled much of the play in the offensive zone. While on a powerplay of their own, the Spruce Kings worked the puck down low and got a shot in on Lyndon Stanwood. Although the rebound was given up and came out into the slot for Jake LeBrun, the back official lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead as LeBrun fired the puck into the net. The goal would not stand up as the play had been blown down.

The Spruce Kings didn't give up and kept the pressure on the home team. Not long after the Spruce Kings were given another powerplay chance and Skylar Pacheco would make amends for his earlier infraction that put his team down the two players. With the puck on his stick, Pacheco came off the right point, stepped around one defender and then just hesitated before wristing a shot over the blocker hand of Stanwood.

The Spruce Kings continued to control much of the middle frame finishing with 19 shots on Stanwood, but only one goal to show for their efforts. Late in the second period Derek Bulmer was called for a trip when he was trying to play the puck behind his own net. The penalty carried over into the third period leading to the Chiefs starting that period looking for the go-ahead goal only to be denied by Murray and Eden with the save of the season.

As the game progressed the Spruce Kings would pick up the pace and would get a break. With some pressure down low the puck came to rest in the blue paint, Stanwood stretched out over the goal line and kept the initial try out of the net. As the bodies piled up around the goal, LeBrun found the puck and lifted it up over the bodies into the back of the net. The puck was loose the whole time and the whistle didn't sound until after the puck came back out of the net and was finally seen sitting in the blue paint again.

The Spruce Kings celebrated a goal, the Chiefs claimed no goal and the officials didn't make a signal either way so the BCHL timeout was called which ended up benefiting the Spruce Kings. The officials took a little over 30 seconds to discuss the play as they saw it and then pointed at centre ice indicating a good goal. As the BCHL timeout ended, the Spruce Kings were once again celebrating the goal, LeBrun's eighth of the season, and the video evidence was allowed to play for all to see on the big screen where the puck was clearly seen going into the back of the net.

The Chilliwack Chiefs would get one more chance late in the game when the Spruce Kings were called for another penalty with just over 2 minutes remaining. The Chiefs played the first half of the man advantage five on four before pulling the goaltender for the six on four situation. Neither team would get a shot on goal in those final two minutes as the Spruce Kings defenders stepped up and kept turning back the Chiefs to secure the 2-1 win.

The win gives the Spruce Kings nine points and sole possession of second place in the Mainland Division, one point back of the Surrey Eagles who defeated the Vernon Vipers. Prince George is now two points ahead of the Langley Rivermen who lost to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in a game that was delayed by over two hours due to inclimate weather delaying BC Ferry crossings. The Spruce Kings next opponents, the Coquitlam Express sat idle on Saturday night and are also two points back of the Spruce Kings.

This sets the stage for the Spruce Kings to turn a good weekend into a great one as they prepare to head back to Coquitlam for the third game in two and half days on the weekend. A win will put the Spruce Kings in top spot in the Mainland Division while a loss to the Express will see Coquitlam pull even with Prince George for second place in the Mainland Division. Sunday's game is 2pm start and will be broadcast on and also on the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

Game Day at Chilliwack Chiefs

It has been a feel good couple of hours for the Prince George Spruce Kings who were all smiles and chuckles while still ribbing Karan Toor over the breakfast table about his first BCHL goal. The 19 year old defenceman found himself on an odd man rush up the ice with Jake LeBrun and the recipient of a loose puck at the side of the net as he poked in his tally of his BCHL career.

After the meal, the coaching staff pulled out the video highlights and low lights of the game from the night before and reminded the players that they will have to play a solid game tonight on a bigger surface against a well rested and hungry team. But to keep the spirits high, even Dave Dupas recognized the need to end the video session with the replay of the goal that showed how Toor read the play and reacted to the play of Brent Lashuk chipping the puck off the wall.

Certainly the showing of the goal was as much of a gamble as the goal itself was, but the coaching staff want to make sure the boys take as much of Friday night into tonight's game as they can. The Spruce Kings have had success on Friday nights, but that success hasn't carried over to the following night so far in this young season.

The Spruce Kings head into tonight's game in a three-way tie for second place in the Mainland Division, just a single point back of the Surrey Eagles and four points ahead of the Chilliwack Chiefs. The Chiefs do have three games in hand after sitting idle for the past two weeks.

The last time the Chiefs played a game was back on Saturday September 14th in the Prince George Coliseum where they found a way to steal two points away from the Spruce Kings. The game was decided in the first minute of overtime after the Spruce Kings outshot the Chiefs 43-21 through 60 minutes, but could only muster up the single tally from Bryant Christian.

The extended layoff for the Chilliwack Chiefs makes them a very big unknown heading into tonight's game. Was the time alone a chance to make a stronger more cohesive unit or has it let to a situation that puts the Chiefs at a disadvantage heading into their home opener? Spruce Kings fans will be hoping for the latter

The pressure of wanting to catch up might be the opportunity that the Spruce Kings are looking to capitalize on. As many of the players on the squad know from last year, Prospera Centre is a large rink with lots of room to move and make things happen. If the Spruce Kings have their legs going early and get quality shots on net and take an early lead, that might be all it takes to leave the Chiefs deflated.

Those are some mighty big ifs and not something anybody should ever think will come easily against the Chilliwack Chiefs. The more likely scenario is that the Chiefs have been working hard every day preparing to make an impression on their fans when the doors open and the lights come on for the team's home opener.

The Spruce Kings have been in some great games over the years playing against the Chilliwack teams and being in the same division has only intensified the rivalry between the two. The ties that bind these two teams goes way back with the origins of this current Chiefs franchise residing in Quesnel as the Millionaires. There is one last remnant of the team that played in the Vault - Kiefer McNaughton is a big (6'3" 244lbs) tough defenceman that can punish you and, as he showed the Prince George fans in overtime on that Saturday night two weeks ago, hurt you on the scoreboard.

Shay Laurent is another player that is known for his size on the blue line. Laurent has returned to the Chiefs lineup after being traded back to the Fraser Valley by the Coquitlam Express earlier in the week. Those two defenceman may provide the spark alone for the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Spruce Kings forwards will have to figure out how to extinguish that spark.

Offensively is where the Chiefs may be the scariest tonight. After scoring just better than a goal a game in their first four games, Harvey Smyl and the Chiefs coaching staff will have been working on that part of the game with the forwards. None of the star recruits from the off-season have very much to show on the score sheet, expect players like Zack Diamontoni, Andrew Silard, Jordan Kawagutchi and especially Austin Plevy to be looking for break out games tonight.

The Spruce Kings are still looking to get more secondary scoring out of their own forwards but are enjoying the contributions so far from Bryant Christian, Jake LeBrun and Brent Lashuk on the top line. Those three sit one, two and three in team scoring and are on the edge of cracking the double digits for points. In fact once the scoresheet is corrected to give Lashuk and LeBrun their assists on the game winner from last night, Lashuk and LeBrun will both have ten points already.

The line of Cole Todd, Matt Painchaud and Mitch Barker are turning into this season's bright light for the team. Once this team finds a way to turn on the red light, I think it is going to become awfully hard for other teams to turn it off. Cole Todd has missed the previous two games due to a suspension, his return will be one of the sparks the Spruce Kings will be looking for tonight.

The players that seem to be having the most fun right now are the defenceman under the guidance of assistant coach Colton Buffie who seems to be giving them just enough freedom to find the right play to jump up offensively. The team defence first policy seems to be keeping all positions on the ice occupied and not giving up too many chances the other way. Christian Weidauer, Skylar Pacheco, Caleb Thompson, Danny Kiraly and now Karan Toor all have goals for the Spruce Kings while Mitch Eden has five helpers.

A nice addition to the Spruce Kings roster has been the rookie netminder, Jesse Jenks who now has two wins and two first star honours to go along with his play in last two starts. The coaching staff will go with their rotation plan in net giviing Alex Murray his chance tonight to get his second win of the season.

A win tonight, gives the Spruce Kings the chance to leapfrog the Surrey Eagles into top spot in the Mainland Division. The Eagles are at home to the Vernon Vipers, however. The Langley Rivermen continue their Island Division swing tonight with a stop in Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs while the Coquitlam Express sit in wait of the Spruce Kings return to the train station on Sunday afternoon.

Tonight's game is the first of six Prince George Motors Games of the Month on 99.3 the Drive. Ron St. Clair will provide the play-by-play call of all the action with Ron Gallo sitting in as colour commentary. This will be the first time since the RBC Royal Bank Cup tournament the Spruce Kings games have been on the major sports radio station in Prince George. The game tonight will also be available from it's usual online sources: pay-per-view on and the free online audio only option from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Unlikely Hero Emerges Tonight

Defensively the Spruce Kings were solid and were
rewarded by the play of one blueliner

The Spruce Kings started a three game weekend with a come-from-behind win over the Coquitlam Express with Karan Toor getting his first BCHL career goal to seal the victory.

Ask anybody cheering for the Spruce Kings on this night what Toor's goal looked like and I'm sure they'll all remember being a bar-down snipe. In reality it was more a case of the hockey gods smiling on one of the hardest working defenceman in the BCHL, crowning Toor the hero on a play that started with a gamble and finished with a scramble at the side of the net.

Early in the game, both teams traded chances and were being stymied by a pair of goaltenders that were able to see almost everything coming there way. Two of the best chances for Prince George to open the scoring in the first period came off a pair of rushes from Bryant Christian and the AP call up, Brogan O'Brien.

Just past the midway mark of the first period, Christian was sprung from his own blue line on a break away. As he closed the gap on the Coquitlam goaltender, Christian though he saw a little daylight on the glove hand side. Gordie Defiel had other thoughts and quickly snared that shot with the big mitt.

A few shifts later it was the Cariboo Cougars call up and future Spruce Kings player, Brogan O'Brien that started a play inside his own zone after muscling the puck away from the opponent. O'Brien carried the puck down the wall and cut to the middle of the ice in the deep slot before attempting a shot. That shot snuck wide after he took a slash from the defender.

The Spruce Kings would come up empty on the ensuing powerplay; in fact both teams were 0 for with the man advantage. The Spruce Kings had just two powerplays to work with in the game while the Express ended up with four on the night.

Before the first period ended, the Coquitlam Express capitalized on a forced turnover in the neutral zone when Adam Rockwell stopped the Spruce Kings breakout attempt and then found Joey Santucci on the the right wing. Santucci came in to the top of the faceoff circle before snapping home a shot that fluttered over the glove of Jesse Jenks.

The Express kept the pressure on to start the second period and four minutes in would be rewarded with a second goal when Bo Pieper strode in on the left wing before zinging a shot to the far side high glove on Jenks.

The Spruce Kings wouldn't take much time to respond and were able to get that one back 78 seconds later when the top line of Brent Lashuk, Jake LeBrun and Bryant Christian came up with the puck and took it to the Coquitlam net. Christian's first shot was stopped but the rebound came right back to the captain who bunted in his second of the season off the side of goaltender.

There would be no more scoring in the middle frame, but the score keepers would be kept busy with a succession of six penalties starting with a quick tilt at centre ice. With Chad Staley busting into the offensive zone, Riley Hawes and Adam Smith dropped their gloves on the Coquitlam Express logo where they quickly exchanged blows before both went down heavily on the frozen canvas. Both would have to go to their respective dressing rooms for repairs.

The rest of the penalties were mostly the result of players crashing the net after saves. One such play resulted in a two minute minor to Bryant Christian for goaltender after he bumped the netminder playing the puck out of the crease area. That penalty would extend into the third period which the Spruce Kings were able to kill off.

At the 5:20 mark the Spruce Kings would tie up the game on a goal mouth scramble that saw the puck come out to the top of the crease for Brent Lashuk to pot his second of the season. On the very next shift, that top line of Lashuk, LeBrun and Christian would stay out and get in on top of the crease again. Cruising through the lower portion of the ice, Christian again bumped the goaltender drawing a second minor for goaltender interference and an automatic game misconduct for the Spruce Kings captain.

With the game tied, the penalty setup the framework for the Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game. If the Coquitlam Express score a powerplay tally it would give them back their lead, but if the Spruce Kings kill it off that should lead to a momentum shift. Sure enough the Spruce Kings would kill it off with big thanks to Jesse Jenks and also Karan Toor who was blocking shots and taking away the down low options.

In a season and a bit, Toor has been one of the most consistent players night in and night out; always battling for puck possession and not giving up position to a puck carrier. In an uncharacteristic gamble, Toor read the play and showed his faith with his team mates on the ice. Toor saw Brent Lashuk challenge the rush and stepped up on the play with Lashuk chipping the puck off the wall. Toor picked up the puck and slid it over to Jake LeBrun as the two turned up the ice on an odd man break.

LeBrun fired the puck on net with the rebound coming over to Toor who looked to be giving the puck back but instead caught just enough of it to put it along the goal line. With a second effort, Toor got another touch on it and watched as the puck crossed the goal line for the defenceman's first BCHL tally in seventy games.

The Spruce Kings bench erupted for the veteran's first goal and Eden was the first to go over and make sure the puck ended up on the Prince George bench. The coaching staff left Toor out there and were rewarded with his tenacious style at protecting the puck as the Express poured it on looking for an equalizer. That even up goal would not come on this evening setting the stage for the Spruce Kings full come-from-behind win, putting the team in a three way tie for second in the Mainland Division.

Jesse Jenks was named the game's first star with Jake LeBrun picking up the honours in second place, but really Karan Toor's name should have been slotted in there. Riley Hawes earned the nod for the FortisBC Energy Player of the Game.

The Spruce Kings will now look to follow this win tonight up with another one Saturday night against a very well rested Chilliwack Chiefs squad. Surprisingly the Chiefs haven't played a game since the double header in Prince George back on September 13th and 14th. The game Saturday night will be the Chiefs home opener and only their fifth game of the season whereas the Spruce Kings will be suiting up for their eighth of the season.

Saturday's game will be the first Prince George Motors Spruce Kings Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive. Ron St. Clair will have the call of the game with Ron Gallo sliding into the colour commentary role for the big game. The game will also be on and the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

Game Day at the Coquitlam Express

Jake LeBrun (8) will be looking to continue his lead of the
Spruce Kings offensively tonight in Coquitlam

With teams still in the single digit range for games played, it might seem a stretch to say that tonight's game has the makings of an early season turning point; but it's very true. Tonight's game is the first of three divisional match-ups for the Prince George Spruce Kings with two of the three being against the Coquitlam Express.

The Spruce Kings have played one more game than the Express and sit two points back of Coquitlam who are tied for second in the Mainland Division with Langley and one point back of first place Surrey. A Prince George win tonight and potentially three teams will be tied for second (Langley does have something to say about that with a game in Powell River). However, a loss will keep the Spruce Kings locked in that fourth spot, two points better than Chilliwack who would then have three games in hand on Prince George.

Mathematics aside, the bottom line is, you want your team to win every game they play so that you are always looking ahead and not behind. Ask any coach prior to the season how many games their team will win and very few, if any, will ever say "all of them." Ask that same coach before a game if this is one they want to win and the answer will always be "yes!"

The Spruce Kings are coming off a pair of home weekends where they won the first games, showing they know how to get the job done. The trick will be to maintain that consistency and not over manage a three game weekend. Long weekends take their toll on the players because of the grind of the travel. On this same weekend last year, the Spruce Kings started a three game road trip through the Interior Division with a win over the Vernon Vipers, but couldn't follow that up in the next two games. The difference this year is that the players will be in one hotel room - a home base - for the entire weekend giving them the same advantage that other teams in their division have.

The Coquitlam Express might be the early team to show the biggest turn around from last season after finishing in the basement of the Mainland Division. The Express have gone through an off-season coaching change bringing Barry Wolff back into the BCHL after a pair of short stints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and in the KIJHL. Wolff came in and made a few changes throughout the lineup. Some of the notables include their twenty year old starting goaltender, Gordie Defiel who has had a perfect start to his season with 3 wins, 0 losses, 3.00 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.

Cody Boyd (0G, 6A) is a player brought in after playing the previous two seasons in the North American Hockey League, Bo Pieper (5G, 0A) is committed to play for the Quinnipiac Bobcats next season after playing the previous two in the USHL and the two before that with Shattuck St. Mary's. Bo didn't come alone, he brought his older brother Canon Pieper (1G, 4A) and together the pair are on a two point per game pace.

There are a few other new faces in the Express lineup but there are also a long list of familiar faces including Jace Hening (1G, 2A) who returns to Coquitlam after playing last season for the Spruce Kings. Hennig was very happy in Prince George and if it weren't for a family matter, has told me that he would still be wearing the Crown. Marc Biega is another former Express/Spruce Kings player that has returned to his original team.

At the trade deadline last year, the Express were involved in a big trade with the Chilliwack Chiefs to build up their blue line. One of those players included Benjamin Israel (0G, 1A), who may not have the numbers, but showed last season that he has the size and presence to cause issues for the opposition looking to setup shop in Express zone. Shay Laurent was another defenceman dealt to Coquitlam at the trade deadline, but was recently traded back to Chilliwack in exchange for future considerations (update compliments of Eddie Gregory, the voice of the Coquitlam Express).

The Spruce Kings headed out for the weekend with one extra body on the bus. Brogan O'Brien, who is already committed to play for Prince George next season, made the trek down with the team and is expected to suit up tonight with a couple of players not quite at a 100 percent and another who has one game left in his two game suspension. Who will be out and who will be in, won't be known until closer to game time as assessments are still being made on those players.

Another question mark for the Spruce Kings is who will start in net tonight. Fueled by nervous energy last weekend, Jesse Jenks posted his first BCHL win against the powerhouse Penticton Vees. This leaves the coaching staff wondering if they should go with the rookie to start the weekend and keep the rotation going through the early part of the season. With three games in two and a half days, seeing if Jenks will get the start between the pipes isn't the question, when is the question.

The Spruce Kings are being led offensively by local hockey product Jake LeBrun (7G, 0A) who scored a hat trick one week ago against the Vees and will be looking to maintain his better than a goal a game average again tonight. LeBrun has been the beneficiary of an increased role from his rookie season meaning the 18 year old gets a lot more chances in every situation to be on the ice looking for those opportunities around the net to pot his next one. His offensive production has taken some by surprise, but not by everyone.

Jake LeBrun is the son of another Prince George hockey product that had his fair share of glory days. Sean LeBrun was drafted 37th overall in 1988 by the New York Islanders after finishing the season with 125 points (52G, 73A) with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. Averaging just over a point a game in his four seasons in the WHL, Sean LeBrun racked up 291 points (117G, 174A). Numbers that those who know would love to see be handed down a generation.

Ahead of Jake LeBrun on team scoring is Bryant Christian and Christian Weidauer, both have eight points to date and have been finding ways of contributing in all scenarios as well. Christian has been turning heads since arriving in Prince George after an off-season where he worked on his strength, physical size and added net presence to his tool box. A quiet contributor and Lady Byng candidate last season, Christian has an edge to him that puts him in the line of fire and in the blue paint as much as the goaltender for the other team. His feisty demeanour has already earned him a fly down visit to an interested NCAA school.

From the blueline, Weidauer has been able to get his shot through to the goal scorers parked in front on a number of occasions resulting in a goal and seven assists for the twenty year old from Keswick, Ontario. Brent Lashuk is an off-season acquisition that is starting to show why he was highly sought after by the team's general manager. When Mike Hawes first learned of the family situation for Jace Hennig, it didn't take him long to find a player from the Express roster that he wanted to bring to Prince George. Lashuk was that player and after missing a few games through the preseason, the speed of 19 year old player is starting to expose weaknesses in the oppositions defence.

The two teams will square off tonight in the "train station," the arena on Poirier Street in Coquitlam. Game time is 7pm with the Prince George Motors Spruce Kings broadcast set to start with the pregame show at 6:40pm with Ron Gallo. The game will be broadcast as a pay-per-video video stream on FASTHOCKEY with a free audio only internet broadcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

Besides always feeling better after a win, a win tonight will allow the Spruce Kings to keep pace and start what will be a tough weekend off on the right foot. Following the game tonight, the team will return to their homebase in Langley to prepare for their game Saturday night in Chilliwack and a return visit Sunday afternoon at 2pm to Coquitlam.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Skylar Pacheco, the Ironman

Sheri LAMB
Citizen staff
September 25, 2013

After a standout bantam year where Skylar Pacheco competed on the under-17 provincial team in the BC Cup, the five-foot-10, 178-pounder was told by a midget coach in his hometown of Kitimat he was too small to compete and cut him in training camp.

Fast forward to the present day and Pacheco, now 19, is in his third season manning the blueline for the Prince George Spruce Kings in the B.C. Hockey League.

Pacheco already has two goals and an assist on an offensively challenged Spruce Kings (2-3-0-1) team this season. In his BCHL career, Pacheco has five goals and 42 points in 114 games. Last season, he was an Ironman for the Spruce Kings, playing in all 56 regular season games and five playoff games.

He said the Spruce Kings brought him along slowly, while he absorbed a lot from his older teammates and the coaching staff. Now he's ready to contribute more to the success of the team. One thing that helps is the added weight Pacheco put on in the summer.

"I'm stronger on the ice and I feel a little faster," said Pacheco.

He credits training with former Spruce Kings teammate Jujhar Khaira during the summer in Surrey with helping him bulk up. Pacheco also learned about the business side of hockey. When the NHL Edmonton Oilers were courting Kharia to sign with them, Pacheco had a front row seat for the negotiation.

Pacheco hasn't negotiated with any NHL teams, but his experience in watching the process Khaira went through could help him in his quest to get a good scholarship for himself at a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) school.

"I thought I was close last year with one school but it didn't work out," said Pacheco.

Pacheco said he chatted with a couple of NCAA representatives at the BCHL Showcase event in Chilliwack, but hasn't committed to anything.

If perseverance is a quality NCAA schools look for, Pacheco would be a good candidate for them.

After the midget coach in Kitimat cut him, Pacheco packed his bags and headed to Kelowna to attend the Pursuit of Excellence hockey academy.

"My coach was great there I learned a lot of skill stuff from him like puck-handling and stick-handling and a lot of positional play, where to be and where to have your stick," said Pacheco.

At 16, Pacheco played junior B hockey in Creston and joined the Spruce Kings the next season.

Spruce Kings head coach Dave Dupas said the added bulk Pacheco put on allows him to win more battles on the ice this season.

"He's another one that's really good on the power play, gets his shots through and defensively he's much better," said Dupas. "He's going to continue to get better and we're expecting big things out of Skylar here."

Pacheco and new Spruce King Christian Weidauer have been paired on the blueline this season.

"They're both so smart and they both move the puck very well," said Dupas. "They use each other very well so the pucks don't stay in our zone long."

Pacheco and the Spruce Kings are on the road this weekend for games against Mainland division rivals, Coquitlam Express (Friday, 7 p.m.; Sunday 2 p.m.) and the Chilliwack Chiefs (Saturday, 7 p.m.).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Game Day vs the Trail Smoke Eaters

Coming off a huge win over the Penticton Vees last night, the Prince George Spruce Kings will be looking to keep their foot on the gas pedal as they take on the Trail Smoke Eaters tonight. Both teams are riding the winner’s high after posting come-from-behind victories in their games.

Despite some stellar saves from the rookie goaltender, Jesse Jenks and the Spruce Kings found themselves down 1-0 early to the visiting Penticton Vees. That didn’t deter the Spruce Kings though who mounted their comeback starting with Jake LeBrun’s first of three on the night just after the BCHL timeout.

Chad Staley picked up his first of the season after finding a rebound in front of the net and Jake Lebrun would add one more before the end of the first period to give Prince George a 3-1 lead before Penticton chipped away to make it a 3-3 game in the third period.

The eventual game winner would be LeBrun’s sixth on the season, a powerplay tally from the dirty area. The goal would stand up despite an onslaught by the Penticton Vees in the remaining seven minutes of the game. Jesse Jenks was nothing short of spectacular, coming up with big timely saves to record his first BCHL win.

Meanwhile the Trail Smoke Eaters had to come from two down in the second period to post their second win of the season 3-2 over the Merritt Centennials in Merritt. The Smoke Eaters have played one more game than the Prince George Spruce Kings and both teams have five points with 2 wins and an overtime loss.

Tonight’s game is the only regular season visit from the Trail Smoke Eaters who are looking to leap frog the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the Interior Division to take over sole possession of third behind the Penticton Vees and West Kelowna Warriors. The Spruce Kings made up some ground on both the Surrey Eagles and the Chilliwack Chiefs who were scoreboard watching last night but will see action tonight. Prince George is currently tied with the Langley Rivermen for second place in the Mainland Division, one point back of the Coquitlam Express who defeated the Rivermen last night 6-2 in Langley.

This will be the Spruce Kings last home game of the month, next weekend they hit the road for a pair of games against the Express on the Friday and Sunday. On Saturday Prince George will be in Chilliwack to meet the Chiefs in Prospera Centre for the first Prince George Motors Feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive.

Tonight's game is a 7pm start in the Coliseum with the game broadcast beginning at 6:40 on FASTHOCKEY and a free online audio broadcast from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

Friday, September 20, 2013

David vs Goliath

Jesse Jenks posted his first BCHL winning after making
36 saves in the Spruce Kings 4-3 win over Penticton

For the third time in as many games played in the Castle, the Spruce Kings did the improbable and posted a regulation time win over the Penticton Vees. Coming into the game with a perfect record of 4 and 0, the Vees boosted an enviable roster that has NCAA schools chomping at the bit to get players from Penticton into their own stables. But on this night it was the Clydesdales of Prince George that showed their ability to play the game.

Despite some stellar saves from the rookie goaltender, Jesse Jenks and the Spruce Kings found themselves down 1-0 early to the visiting Penticton Vees. After a bit of bad luck bounce that came on the same play that saw Jenks make two great saves, the puck was poked in behind the 18 year old netminder at 6:16 of the first period.

The Spruce Kings mounted their own offensive push after this and with the aid of the BCHL timeout, were able to get their first goal when Jake LeBrun scored his first of three on the night. Following up on a play started by Bryant Christian, LeBrun went hard to the net with his stick on the ice and feathered the puck through a tangle of legs.

With the game tied 1-1, the Spruce Kings went on the powerplay and made short order of their man advantage. With a D-to-D pass, Caleb Thompson fed Christian Weidauer the pass who fired a shot in. Chad Staley was right there to find the big rebound and bury his first of the season to give the Spruce Kings a 2-1 lead late in the first period.

Before the first was over, the Spruce Kings went up two goals with LeBrun’s second off another loose puck in the blue paint that squeaked over the goal line. Weidauer and Christian were given the assists on the play. The goal itself, scored in the last minute of play, was the direct result of the Spruce Kings feeding off the energy created by the fans in attendance.

In the second period, the Penticton Vees made some adjustments that minimized the Spruce Kings shots and chances. A powerplay goal by the visitors made this a one-goal game with the Vees building momentum. A late penalty in the second period, that carried over into the third, saw the Penticton Vees build even more momentum.

Immediately after killing off that penalty, the Spruce Kings found themselves penalized again, but this time it was a five minute major to Cole Todd. To compound the issue, Skylar Pacheco was given a two minute minor giving the Penticton Vees a full two minutes to work with the two man advantage. When it looked like the Spruce Kings were going to kill it off, a long range shot found its way through everybody to tie the game 3-3.

Jake LeBrun would become the hero on the night scoring his third of the game, a powerplay goal at 12:25 of the third that would stand up to be the eventual game winner. LeBrun earned first star honours for his effort and shot up in to the top twenty among League scoring and second in the League for the most goals scored with 6. Jesse Jenks was given second star honours for his stellar play between the pipes and certainly can't be faulted for any of the three goals that did get behind him.

Bryant Christian earned the FortisBC Energy Player of the Game for his consistent play. Missing in the accolades was Christian Weidauer despite setting three of the goals on the night and playing a solid game on the blue line.

The Spruce Kings will now get set to take on the Trail Smoke Eaters Saturday night at 7pm in the Castle.

Game Day vs the Penticton Vees

The Prince George Spruce Kings start a weekend pair of games against the defending Interior Division Champions from last season – the Penticton Vees. Always a team consider to be a serious contender to win it all, the Vees boost a strong lineup of players that have already amassed a total of fifteen NCAA Scholarships.

Along with the academic accolades, the Penticton Vees find themselves not only leading the Interior Division but also sitting on top of the League with 8 points in four games. A perfect record with one shutout and a combined score of 17-4. During those four games, the Vees held the opposition to an average of a single goal per game while scoring just over four goals a game themselves.

Leading the way offensively is a rookie import from Minnetonka, Minnesota. Max Coatta has been averaging two points a game and comes to Prince George with 5 goals and 3 assists in his first year in the BCHL. Also figuring high on the depth chart is second year player Brad McClure with 3 goals and 3 assists.

Rounding out the top three forwards is seasoned veteran Ryan Gropp with his five points (2 goals, 3 assists) playing on a line with McClure and Ben Dalpe (yes the younger brother of Zac Dalpe). Contributing to his new team’s cause from the blue line is Brett Beauvais, an 18 year old player this year that came from Kalamazoo, Michigan.

In net tonight, the Penticton Vees are expecting to go with the twenty year old goaltender from La Tuque Quebec. Olivier Mantha has allowed only a goal against in each of his two games played so far and has a .964 save percentage. The backup goaltender, Hunter Miska has similar numbers with a 1.00 goals against average and a .960 save percentage.

The Spruce Kings have been showing fans that they are prepared and willing to work hard against any team they face and nothing short of that full effort will be required tonight. Prince George has had some memorable games against the Vees and many fans will be looking for a similar game as played two seasons ago when Prince George ended Penticton’s near season long winning streak.

Earlier this week the team named its captains with Bryant Christian getting the ‘C.’ The assistant captains are Karan Toor, Chad Staley and Mitch Eden. All four players are returning players with the Spruce Kings and have shown leadership both on and off the ice.

That leadership and knowledge of the potent Penticton Vees will be required to keep the Spruce Kings on task tonight against the defending Interior Division champions from last season.

The Prince George Motors Spruce Kings broadcast will get underway with a pregame show at 6:40pm with Ron Gallo followed by the scheduled puck drop at 7:00pm and all the action with Ron St. Clair and Todd Doherty. The game will be broadcast on FASTHOCKEY with free online audio available from the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Shots, Shots, Shots

The Prince George Spruce Kings couldn't convert shots into goals on Saturday night, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Chilliwack Chiefs in overtime at the Coliseum.

Veteran defenceman Kiefer McNaughton got the game winner just 55 seconds into the four-on-four extra session blasting a point shot into the top corner and past Spruce Kings goaltender Alex Murray. McNaugton, who began his BCHL career with Quesnel Millionaires, was in on both Chiefs goals as Chillwack earned its first win of the young season.

The Spruce Kings still came out of the weekend with three points after defeating the Chiefs 7-1 on Friday night.

Despite outshooting the Chiefs 43-22, the Spruce Kings weren't able to light lamp often enough to get the win on Saturday.

The Chiefs limited the number of second-chance opportunities the Spruce Kings had and Prince George didn't generate the same amount of traffic in front of Chiefs goalie Lyndon Stanwood as they did on Friday night.

The Spruce Kings got into penalty trouble in the second half of the game but the penalty killing unit did its job and then some, negating eight Chilliwack power-play opportunities.

With the game knotted at one goal apiece, the Chiefs did generate some good chances in the third, but Murray was up to the task. His biggest stop came midway through the period when he kicked out his pad to deny Jacob Hand from point-blank range. Chiefs defenceman Carter Cochrane opened the scoring at 16:55 of the first when he banged home a rebound of a McNaughton shot while the Chiefs had an extra attacker on due to a pair of delayed penalties against the Spruce Kings. The goal came on just the Chiefs third shot of the opening period.

The Spruce Kings drew even at 17:58 of the second on Bryant Christian's first goal of the year. Christian drove hard to the net and re-directed a beautiful feed from Brent Lashuk into the back of the net.

Austin Plevy had a bevy of chances for the Chiefs. The team's leading scorer from last season appeared poised to take a feed in the slot in the first, but a great backchecking effort by Mitch Eden spoiled that opportunity.

Plevy broke in a breakaway in the second, but Alex Murray waited him out and made a nice save to keep the Spruce Kings within on at the time.

His best chances came in the final minute of the third when Karan Toor and Skylar Pacheco both cleared the puck off the goal line after it got past Murray.

Stanwood had a busy weekend, the Spruce Kings directed 53 shots his way in Friday night's 7-1 win and his effort Saturday earned him first star honours.

Toor was named the game's second star and Christian garnered the third star award. Spruce Kings forward Sean Landrey was named the FortisBC Energy player of the game.

The Spruce Kings are back on home ice next weekend with Penticton visiting the castle on Friday night and Trail making the trip north on Saturday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Spruce Kings Tally Seven on the Chiefs

Danny Kiraly (5) finishes the two-on-one

The Prince George Spruce Kings first crowded the net, then filled it on Friday night as they defeated the visiting Chilliwack Chiefs 7-1 at the Coliseum.

Making the most of offensive chances was key to the Spruce Kings' game plan coming into Friday night's home opener and the trick seemed to be getting as many bodies as possible in front of Chiefs starter Lyndon Stanwood.

That was certainly the case in the decisive second period as all three of the Spruce Kings goals in the middle stanza came with Stanwood's crease crowded.

Jake LeBrun gave Prince George a lead it would never relinquish at 3:11 of the second when his shot from the high slot beat Stanwood. Brent Lashuk and Mitch Eden picked up the assists, but it was Bryant Christian in front who provided the screen. Christian even waved his stick at the puck as if to tip it and that may have distracted Stanwood enough to allow LeBrun's shot through.

There was even more chaos in front of the Chiefs net when Lashuk made it 3-1 at 14:32 of the second. Stanwood was laying on his back after getting knocked down by a pile of players battling for position in front of the blue paint. Lashuk found the loose puck and lifted it over Stanwood while the Chiefs' bench protested for a goaltender inference penalty. None was forthcoming and instead the head coach, Harvey Smyle was given a game misconduct. Mitch Eden and Bryant Christian were awarded the helpers on the Lashuk goal.

Caleb Thompson put a dagger through the Chiefs' chances at 16:39 of the second when his seeing-eye point shot found its way through the traffic out front and past Stanwood. The power-play tally was assisted by Riley Hawes and Christian Weidauer.

Into the third, LeBrun added another insurance marker at 7:55 when he was left alone in the slot and fired one past Stanwood. Lashuk had the lone assist, his third point of the night.

LeBrun could have had even more if the pesky posts would have gotten out of the way. He clanked shots off the iron in the first and second periods.

Defenceman Danny Kiraly added to the onslaught at 14:14 of the third, converting a feed from Justin Rai on a two-on-one break. Thompson set up the rush and picked up another assist.

And to prove things were just really going the Spruce Kings way, a Skylar Pacheco dump-in attempt found its way in for the Spruce Kings seventh goal of the night at 17:53 unassisted.

Wideauer also had a multiple-point night, picking up an assist in the first to go along with his second period helper. He maintained the early season team scoring lead with six - one goal, five assists - in three games. His first helper came just 1:21 into the game when he helped set up Justin Rai's game-opening goal. Chad Staley picked up the other assist.

Jaret Babych tied the score before the first period was out, taking a feed from Austin Plevy and beating Spruce Kings goalie Alex Murray.

Traffic in the crease wasn't the only key to the Spruce Kings offensive success Friday, they also directed plenty of rubber Stanwood's way even when the goalie had clear sight lines.

The home side held the edge on the shot counter every period and finished the night with 53 shots to Chilliwack's 19. The two teams meet again on Saturday night at the Coliseum, game time is 7 p.m.

Blog written by Peter James

Home Opener

Puck drops on a new season tonight

It is one of the most exciting times of the year for hockey fans and hockey players … the home opener. Tonight marks the 42nd home opener for the Spruce Kings, a community owned team that has called Prince George home since its inception in the early 70’s.

Over the span of those years the team has had its fair share of ups and downs. When you sit on the bleachers and listen carefully you will hear the roar of the fans that have sat in the Coliseum over the years cheering the team on to its many divisional and league championships.

The history hanging from the rafters tells only a small portion of the story that gets a new chapter written every season. Every chapter details the challenges and achievements of those players that have worn the crown over the years.

This year a new crop of players will pull the crown on over their heads and start writing the next chapter. Like all good stories, the new chapter will pick up where the last one left off.

On Tuesday March 19th, these two teams engaged in an epic battle of two teams battling for a second round playoff berth. Just 28 seconds in to the game the captain opened the flood gates burying the game’s first goal and putting the home team on the board. Chilliwack would respond later in the first period to tie the game.

The second period started in much the same fashion as the first, with the Spruce Kings opening the scoring this time just 23 seconds in to the period. Once again it was Trevor Esau leading the royal troops and setting up Coltyn Hansen for the go-ahead goal.

Just past the mid way mark of the second game, another battle tested warrior helped to energize the home team and its appreciative fans. Kevin Guiltinan’s shot from the point found its way to Shayne Morrissey and eventually the back of the net for the eventual game winning goal.

In the third period the visitors fired everything they brought with them to Prince George but couldn’t get anything behind Kirk Thompson who sealed the door to the trophy room on this night. Both Coltyn Hansen and Shayne Morrissey would find the net empty at the other end of the ice to give the Spruce Kings a 5-2 win.

The win turned into a royal sendoff for the team from Prince George as they couldn’t duplicate the effort the following night in Chilliwack. Today the two teams with only a few soldiers that remember the epic battle will be on the ice to renew this developing rivalry in the Mainland Division of the BCHL.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

And So It Begins

Following the big announcement of the media partnership with the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group and the first of a few bus trips down Highway 97, the Spruce Kings are ready to start the 2013-14 season Saturday night with game number one versus the Cowichan Valley Capitals. The game is one of the 16 games, and first of two for the Spruce Kings, being played this weekend at the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack during the Bauer BCHL Showcase.

For the second year the League's regular season has started with the Showcase where every team plays their first two games of the season in front of scouts from every NHL team, NCAA school and scouts from other hockey teams from across North America. At last year's Showcase the Spruce Kings opened the season with a 2 and 0 record defeating the Merritt Centennials in regulation time and the Langley Rivermen in overtime, this year the Spruce Kings will be looking to duplicate that effort against a pair of Island Division teams in the Capitals and the Nanaimo Clippers.

At the time of writing this blog, neither of the Spruce Kings opponents have stepped on the ice although the Clippers will be the first when they start their season at 3pm Saturday afternoon against the West Kelowna Warriors. The Capitals first game will be versus the Spruce Kings and their second game will come later on Sunday when they take on the Trail Smoke Eaters.

At this early juncture of the regular season, not much is known about the teams who have have been busy recruiting players in the off-season, putting them through their paces during training camp and in exhibition games. Preseason games are not a good measuring stick for how well a team is or isn't because many times the preseason roster is full of players that coaches and scouts are hoping to get one last good look at and send a message to the player that they are on their radar for the future but not right now.

The Prince George Spruce Kings will start the season with a full compliment of 22 players featuring nine returning players, six local hockey products, five American born players, three Canadian boys from out of province (all from Ontario), four 20 year olds, eight 19 year olds, seven 18 year olds and three 17 year olds with the youngest player being Mitch Barker from Kamloops BC who will be 16 years old under December.

Looking at the roster, the Spruce Kings will be looking for scoring from the returning trio of Chad Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Justin Rai. Last season the three played consistently on the same line finding chemistry early until injuries broke the line up. All three have come back for their second season with more muscle and seemingly more desire and if they can find their chemistry again will prove to be a dangerous line no matter who the opponent is. Justin Rai may have made the biggest improvement in bulking up but all three have shown just how much more ready they are for the physical demands of the game at the BCHL level.

Players like Brent Lashuk and Braiden Epp will also need to find their scoring touch after being sidelined for much of the preseason with minor injuries. Jake LeBrun is a local Prince George hockey product that earned his spot on the team last year with a strong showing in the preseason. In the off season LeBrun also bulked up and could become that missing piece in front of the net and fill the role of a power forward that gets rewarded by playing in the dirty areas.

Arguably last season's Lady Byng candidate from the Spruce Kings roster was Bryant Christian, this year Christian appears to have shed the nice guy image and has become of a more of take no crap kind of player and key man in the faceoff circle. Winning faceoffs anywhere on the ice is a key component to success, especially when you can win them in the offensive zone and turn those draws into quick scoring chances. If Christian can maintain his high faceoff average, he could become the dark horse in a scoring race setting up the point man for the booming shot.

Speaking of a booming shot, Sean Landrey may be that guy up front too. It is clear to see that Landrey took the challenge of becoming a physically stronger player seriously and demonstrated that during the Factory Hockey Player Development fitness challenges. After pounding the pavement in the beep test, hurling a 12 pound medicine ball and deadlifting his own body weight, Landrey proceeded to pump out over 200 situps nearly doubling any other players before seemingly becoming bored of the procedure.

The five remaining forwards are all rookies that made it difficult on the coaches and scouts to come up with the final required cuts to the preseason squad in order to be down to a twenty-two man roster in time for the BCHL Showcase. Matt Painchaud has shown that he is an up and coming top faceoff man in the BCHL and head coach Dave Dupas has rewarded the youngster with a number of key faceoff assignments during the preseason games. Mitch Barker and Derek Bulmer have demonstrated an ability to get to the net with hard accurate shots and if the future is bright for these two, they very well could find themselves in a regular rotation that puts them in the top six for most games.

Riley Hawes is a player that has just the right ingredients to be another power forward. Hawes is a big presence on the ice that isn't afraid to use his body to protect the puck or steal it away. Getting that body to the front of the net and otherwise causing problems for the defence will be an area where Hawes may very well find success; that with his big reach will also come in handy for the Spruce Kings.

One other forward that everyone is excited to see play is Cole Todd who didn't finish the game in Merritt last Saturday after crashing awkwardly into the end boards in the second period. Todd is a gifted forward that has both speed and an accurate shot. I believe that he hasn't been able to use either of those assets together because of being confined to some of the smaller ice surfaces in the BCHL through the preseason, but watch out for Todd on the larger ice surfaces in the Lower Mainland.

On defence there is a 50/50 mix of returning and rookie players but don't let the notation of rookie fool you because some of these rookies are anything but. Caleb Thompson and Danny Kiraly are a pair of American boys that have played under the bright lights of some fairly prestigious tournaments and that is where team scouts first identified and recruited these players. Thompson comes from the football factory state of Oklahoma but has shown an ability on the ice that has left coaching and scouting staff smiling. In every game, Thompson has shown a fierce level of compete and resolve and although nobody was keeping track of plus minus, I would be surprised if Thompson was less than a plus player. Kiraly is another player that is strong on the blue line and finds a way to get his shots through from the point.

The other rookie on the blue line is Stephen Penner, a Prince George hockey product that played last season with the Cariboo Cougars and was acquired just before the start of the regular season as a free agent from the Nanaimo Clippers. That could become an interesting motivation tool for Penner and the Spruce Kings on Sunday afternoon. Another new face on the blue line is Christian Weidauer who came from Ontario in a deal with the Carleton Place Canadians during the off season. Weidauer is a big defenceman that played for Team Canada East in the World Junior A Challenge. Playing out west is a dream for Weidauer and he is looking to do what needs to be done to have that dream come true.

The three returning defenceman include third year blueliner Skylar Pacheco and second year vets Karan Toor and Mitch Eden. In an interesting turn of events, all three defenceman opted to change their jersey numbers from the previous season with Eden deciding to take #27 that Kevin Guilinan wore last year. Eden showed up at camp this year in a great physical shape; that along with his knowledge of the BCHL and desire to lead the Spruce Kings this year, has Eden looking like he is on top of his game both offensively and defensively.

Toor, who will wear number 10 this year, came back this year chiseled having opted to go with a leaner and meaner body. This decision has already payed dividends in the blueliners speed and ability to carry the puck out of his own zone. Pacheco also opted to change his jersey to number 9, but his game retains the cool confident feel that it had last season. Pacheco was used in the preseason on the number one powerplay unit and it looks like coach Dupas will be calling on the veteran leader to find ways of getting the puck from the point to the net in much the same fashion as he did last Saturday against the Merritt Centennials.

Filling the void left by the departure of Kirk Thompson is no easy task, but it is one that Alex Murray has shown he is ready to take on. Murray played the majority of games during the preseason and although the Spruce Kings were unable to find the win column in the mean-nothing games, Murray was the most consistent player on the ice. Calling the games myself, I couldn't help but see flashes of Kirk Thompson in the style of Murray and with increased confidence at the BCHL level, Murray will become the next recognizable name in goal for the Spruce Kings.

Jesse Jenks also has to fill a vacancy in net this year after Liam McLeod opted to request a release so that he could give the game a try at the Major Junior level. Unfortunately for McLeod that didn't quite work out, but he has found another roster spot and will actually be on the Nanaimo Clippers game day roster for Sunday's contest. As the saying goes, one persons loss is another's gain, so do is true for Jenks as he finds himself in the backup role but having already shown that he is quite ready to step on the ice and start stopping pucks.

There are a couple of minor changes behind the bench as well. Dave Dupas stays on as the team's head coach but Colton Buffie has come down from the media box where he was the video coach to become the new assistant coach working alongside Jason Garneau as the other assistant coach. Dupas and Buffie have developed a working relationship over the past three years, so despite that this is Dupas' third assistant coach in as many years, the communication between the two will be very good.

The Spruce Kings first game of the season and first game at the BCHL Showcase is scheduled for 6:30pm Saturday night versus the Cowichan Valley Capitals. The game will be available online only with a free audio broadcast on the Spruce Kings website through the embedded Mixlr player or from the Spruce Kings mixlr channel. There will also be a pay per view broadcast available from (remember to click on the "away" broadcast link for this one). The Spruce Kings will play their second game of the weekend at 2pm Sunday afternoon as the home team versus the Nanaimo Clippers.