Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eight Gifts In One

Standing in the mall it is not hard to tell that Christmas is only mere days away. People are frantically wandering from store to store looking for that just right item to wrap and put under the tree for that somebody special. Sometimes it is imperative to find multiple items and hope that the combination is the right one to impress that person on the gift list.

Well here`s an idea to consider to help cross off a person or two from your gift list ... a Spruce Kings Show Home Lottery ticket. The ticket comes with a total of eight more prizes to be drawn after Christmas, making it like you are giving eight gifts with one little package.

The next seven early bird prizes include a season ticket package consisting of four adult season tickets to the Spruce Kings 2011-12 BCHL season. There is also the $3200 RONA Gift Card, a Mexican Riviera Cruise valued at over $5000, a Las Vegas Get-Away valued at $3000, a Disney Family Vacation worth over $6000 and two cash draws of $2500 each.

Then on April 14th that one ticket becomes eligible for the Grand Prize of the Spruce Kings Show Home. Located at 2620 Links Drive in the Aberdeen Glen Subdivision, the house features a ground level entry and 1520 square feet on the main floor. The Grand Prize will also include the $12,000 worth of stainless steel Bosch appliances and a television that mounted into its own little area above the fireplace mantel.

So when you are thinking of that last minute gift idea for that special someone on your gift list, think of the Spruce Kings Show Home Lottery ticket. They are available at the Show Home itself from 10am - 6pm daily, Pine Centre Mall during Mall hours, Canadian Tire from 9am - 5pm daily as well as select retailers around town or by phone - 250.962.IWIN (4946) or toll free around the province of BC 1.888.962.IWIN.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Member of the Century Club

In his 151st game in the British Columbia Hockey League - all with the Prince George Spruce Kings - Justin Fillion notched a power play goal and helped set up Brandon Watson’s first as a Spruce King. A goal and an assist may not seem like much until you realize that the twenty year old defenceman came into the game with 99 career points.

The two points Fillion picked up on Friday night put him into the Spruce Kings Century Club, a fairly exclusive club that only had four members prior to the Spruce Kings game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals on December 3rd.

With the team on a powerplay and the faceoff in the offensive zone to the left of the Capitals’ netminder, Lyndon Martell took the draw and won it straight back. Standing just under the blue line in the high slot, Fillion wasted no time and fired the one-timer that beat Chase Martin at 12:23 of the second period. The goal evened up the score at two apiece and provided some momentum for the home team.

Just under five minutes later Justin Fillion was able to get the puck out of his one zone and onto the stick of Trent Murdoch setting up a two-on-one. With the defenceman committing to the puck carrier, Murdoch was able to dish off a neat pass behind his back to a streaking Brandon Watson.

In his first game as a member of the Spruce Kings squad, Watson was able to go in all alone on Martin and as he faded to his backhand, he roofed a shot on the goaltender’s blocker side. The goal spotted the Spruce Kings to a 3-2 lead late in the second period and pushed Fillion over the 100 point mark and into fourth spot over all for defenceman in the Century Club.

It will take something of a miracle to catch the number one seed in the Club as David Keough has 200 points in 202 games over four seasons with the Spruce Kings. Second on the list is the Carolina Hurricanes 3rd round pick from 1999, Brad Fast with 126 points. As an active player, Fillion stands to catch Ryan deVries in 3rd spot with 115 points. Zach Davies is the other member of the Century Club with exactly 100 points.

RJay Berra and Nic DeSousa are both closing in on the Century Club; DeSousa has 94 points while the Spruce Kings captain has 92.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dave Dupas Speaks to the Trades



Hockey can be a fun sport to both play and watch, but sometimes the realty of the game sinks in and that realty isn't always kind. Such was the case following the December 1st player card cut-down date. On this day every junior hockey team is limited to twenty-five player cards for the remainder of the season.

December 1st becomes one of those days when you come to expect trades to be made as teams try and sure up their 23 man roster. The inner office becomes a buzz of activity with members of the hockey operations staff manning the phones and trying to get players that will strengthen the team. In all of this, some hard decisions have to be made that will impact the makeup of the dressing rooms.

Following the December 1st deadline, the Spruce Kings were a team that saw some players moved out and new players named to come in. Released from the team were Brendon Fornwald ('91 F), Riley Spraggs ('91 F) and twenty year old goaltender Alex Wright. None were the subject of a trade but were given their release as the Spruce Kings brought in two players from the Junior B ranks in Cameron Large and Brandon Watson.

Cameron Large is no stranger to the Prince George Spruce Kings having attended camps over the past two years here and battling hard enough to earn the respect of the scouts and coaches. This respect was well deserved with the right handed goaltender showing great numbers in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League with an 11-2 record and a 2.45 goals against average and 92.3 save percentage.

Brandon Watson is familiar with the Spruce Kings having played against Prince George last season as a member of the Quesnel Millionaires. This season with the Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, Watson has an impressive 15 goals and 13 assists through 24 games. Impressive because he has also handed 106 minutes in penalties showing that he can be a fierce competitor and willing to battle in the dirty areas.

One trade was made and that was for Mike Puddifant in exchange for future considerations with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL. Puddifant is solid defenceman that can be tough to play against. As I found out from Dave Dupas, the head coach of the Spruce Kings, Puddifant can help to fill a need on the blue line and make the team stronger defensively.

I spoke with Dave Dupas after the dust had settled on the changes and went through the player moves and took a brief look ahead to this weekend's pair of games against the Cowichan Valley Capitals (Friday at 7pm) and the Victoria Grizzlies (Saturday at 7pm).


Click here to download

Monday, November 29, 2010

Overcoming Obstacles

The Spruce Kings are still looking for their first win under their new head coach, but some factors need to be put into consideration before any kind of judgment is passed. Those factors range from a lack of practice time as a new look team together to a lack of bodies on the bench to play the game.

As of this morning (November 29), the team had it's first team practice with Dave Dupas running the drills in five days. Those five days saw the team play three games in three nights and although improvements were seen and felt on the ice, the team was unable to put up any points in those games.

The reason for the lack of points was made painfully obvious on Saturday night as the team started the game two bodies short of a full roster for their game against the Interior Division leading Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Sitting in the stands were Riley Spraggs, Bennett Hambrook and Brendon Fornwald all on the injury list while their team mates tried to mask the open hole on forward and defence.

To make the short bench even shorter, Kyle Manlow was assessed a questionable five minute major for charging and a game misconduct taking the feisty forward out of the entire third period. With the five minute major just over halfway killed off, Justin Fillion was assessed a two minute minor for a blow to the head that comes with an automatic ten minute misconduct.

The penalty proved to be too costly for the Spruce Kings who were know without their arguably best penalty killer and offensive defenceman for over twelve minutes. Leading 3-1 at that point in the game, the Spruce Kings could no longer hold off the powerplay of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The visitors scored on the two man advantage and then added one more on the remaining penalty time to tie the game at three.

It was here that the fatigue of a mentally and physically exhausting week caught up with the Spruce Kings. It started on Wednesday with the announcement of a new coach, the next day the team went on the road for a Thursday night game in Westside, Friday night in Merritt and then a return trip to Prince George for the home game against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

After a day off to recover on Sunday, the team reconvened Monday morning for their first practice with Dave Dupas directing traffic. The first few minutes of the practice saw a group of players tentatively getting into the new drills. As the practice rolled on, a symmetry was achieved and the players started moving at a quicker pace.

The thoughts of the entire team are on tomorrow and looking forward, not on what happened yesterday. Tomorrow is game number 34 and the third of the season against the Quesnel Millionaires and it won't be an easy one being played in the Vault. The Millionaires find themselves one point in front of the Spruce Kings with three games in hand.

The Spruce Kings have called upon the assistance of the Cariboo Cougars Major Midget squad with a request for AP's (affiliate players) to help fill up the roster. No matter who is in the lineup, the Spruce Kings expect themselves to be ready for this game and are looking at some of the positives from their two most recent games to spark themselves on Tuesday night.

On Saturday night there was the two period lead over the best team in the Division and in both Friday and Saturday games the team worked hard and got shots through and created many scoring chances for themselves. On Friday night, when the team was a lot fresher heading into the game against the Merritt Centennials, they were able to hold off the Cents on their six powerplay chances.

Although lines have not been set for Tuesday's game in Quesnel, the line combination of Lyndon Martell, Nic DeSousa and RJay Berra looked very good on Friday night. Those three along with the rest of the team will be looking to start clicking on Tuesday night when they face the Millionaires for the third time this season.

The most recent meeting between these two teams was a Saturday night affair on October 16 in Quesnel with the Millionaires coming away with a 4-2 victory. On opening night back on September 11, the Millionaires ruined the first game of the season for the Spruce Kings with a 4-3 overtime win. In those games Clayton Chessa proved to be the difference for the Millionaires with a three goals and an assist. Also adding his mark on the games was Darryl DeVries, the younger brother of former Spruce Kings defenceman and team captain, Ryan DeVries.

Chessa is no longer with the Quesnel Millionaires having been traded to the Cowichan Valley Capitals. That only prolongs the Spruce Kings seeing him by one game as the Capitals will be in Prince George Friday night ... but that is a story line for another blog. DeVries has seven goals and five assists (two goals were against Prince George) shares ice time with a family relative in Derek Huisman who also has ties to a former member of the Spruce Kings - Darcy Huisman - who played in Prince George during the RBC Royal Bank Cup season.

Perhaps surprisingly this is only the third meeting of the season between these two long time hockey rivals that are only an hour and bit away from each other. That just leaves more meetings between the two in the second half. Tuesday's game is the first of four in a month and first of five in eleven games for the Spruce Kings. The opportunity is definitely there with that many head-to-head matchups for the Spruce Kings to take over seventh spot in the Interior Division and start climbing from there.

Game time on Tuesday is 7:00pm from the Quesnel Twin Arenas in Quesnel. The game will be broadcast live on the internet only available from the Spruce Kings website and also from the BCHL Fan Zone.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Changes Behind the Bench



It was a tough start to the day as word started getting out that there was a big change in the works around the Spruce Kings. Before noon the speculation became reality with the news that Ed Dempsey was no longer the head coach and general manager of the team having been relieved of his duties. After the initial shock the next question was who would take over behind the bench, the answer - Dave Dupas.

With playing experience in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, NCAA Division I and semi-pro, Dupas also brings coaching experience from Major Midget, Junior 'B' and Junior 'A' levels. His most recent Junior 'A' experience was behind the bench of the Williams Lake Timberwolves during the beginning of the 2009-10 season.

I was in the Spruce Kings office when the new coach arrived and it didn't take long for him to start getting acclimated with his new team. First up was the introductions with Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel - Mike Hawes and the assistant coaches - Jason Garneau and Tom Bohmer.

After a short meeting with those three, Dupas met with all the players individually and then as a group to evaluate where everybody was and to start laying out the plan moving forward. It was shortly after these meetings that I had my chance to talk to the new coach and ask him a few questions. What follows is my first interview with the new head coach of the Prince George Spruce Kings.


Click here to download

After speaking with Dave Dupas I was also able to talk to the president of the Prince George Spruce Kings, Darcy Buryn. As you can imagine, it wasn't easy to be the man standing behind this decision and after a long day of answering questions I hit him with a few tough ones as well.


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I haven't had time to properly reflect back on my experiences with Ed Dempsey in the almost seven years that he spent with the Spruce Kings. I hope to be able to do just that as he has been a big influence on me and spent a great deal of time teaching me some of the intricacies of the game of hockey. Without that input over the years, I'm absolutely certain I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now with the team.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Alumni Signs with NHL Philadelphia Flyers



Congratulations to Brandon Manning who recently signed a three year entry level contract with the NHL Philadelphia Flyers. Brandon played with the Spruce Kings for just one season, but in that one season he showed a poise and understanding of the game that saw him become a respected defenceman in the BCHL.

In his rookie season spent with his hometown team, Manning suited up for the Spruce Kings in 58 games scoring 7 goals while setting up 19 others. Manning was a fierce competitor that battled hard and served his fair share of penalty minutes for his hard work picking up 107 minutes in penalities. At the end of season, Manning had an opportunity to play with the Chilliwack Bruins for the final six games and that turned into another three seasons.

Overlooked in the NHL Entry Draft, Manning has become a shining example of what hard work and determination can do for a player. This past training camp season, Manning skated with the New York Rangers but opted out of signing a contract to return to his Major Junior team for his twenty year old season.

*NOTE* Just wanted to throw out there that I stumbled upon an online player bio for another Spruce Kings alumni ... Jeff Forsythe is listed with the University of Wisconsin Superior ... with another alumni - Kyle Leahy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lyndon Martell On His Way Back



One day after announcing the first winner in the Spruce Kings Show Home Lottery, the Spruce Kings might be feeling like they just won an early bird prize themselves. On Monday, the Spruce Kings learned of the Kamloops Blazers wish to reassign seventeen year old forward Lyndon Martell from the Western Hockey League to his former Junior 'A' team.

Martell played in 44 games last year with the Spruce Kings as a sixteen year old finishing the year with 31 points (13 goals and 18 assists) and 18 penalty minutes. Prior to his first tour of duty with the Spruce Kings, Martell was setting the Major Midget League on fire with a better than two point a game average.

This season Martell wasn't finding the ice time he was used to and that wasn't lost on his new team. In a press release announcing the reassignment of the Prince George forward to his home town team, Matt Recchi recognized that in the best interests of Martell's development he should be given an opportunity to play a more enhanced role.

That opportunity rests with the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Spruce Kings are excited to have the talented player back in the lineup to add even more depth up front for the team. Until he has an opportunity to suit up and start practicing with the Spruce Kings, it isn't known which line Martell is going to be playing on.

Here are the two press releases issued by the Kamloops Blazers and the Prince George Spruce Kings

Kamloops, BC - The Kamloops Blazers announced this morning that they have re-assigned 17-year-old forward Lyndon Martell to the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL.

"Lyndon needs more playing time to continue to develop," Director of Player Personnel, Matt Recchi commented. "He struggled to get in the line-up here and we believe he needs to play in a more enhanced role to continue to advance his skill set," Recchi concluded.

Martell played in 8 games with the Blazers this season collecting 1 assist. He has played only 1 out of the last 8 games.

The Kamloops Blazers current roster now sits at 22 players including 13 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders.

PRINCE GEORGE, BC – The Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) today announced that the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League have reassigned 17 year old forward Lyndon Martell to the Spruce Kings Junior 'A' Hockey Club.

Lyndon Martell (6-foot-1, 175 pound, 1993 born left handed forward from Prince George) played 44 games last season with the Spruce Kings finishing with a record of 13 goals and 18 assists. This season Lyndon played in eight games with the Kamloops Blazers before being reassigned to his former team.

"Lyndon needs more playing time to continue to develop," said Kamloops Blazers Director of Player Personnel, Matt Recchi, in a press release. "We believe he needs to play in a more enhanced role to continue to advance his skill set."
"We're very happy that the Kamloops Blazers have made it possible for Lyndon to play for us," said Spruce Kings General Manager and Head Coach, Ed Dempsey. "Lyndon is the type of player that can excel in this game with more ice time and we know what he can do for us."

Lyndon Martell is expected to join the Spruce Kings during the week and be in the lineup for the team's next game when they host the Westside Warriors on Thursday night, November 11 at 7:00pm in the Prince George Coliseum.

For more information, please contact the Spruce Kings office at 250.564.1747.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hilites from the Overtime Win in Vernon

Was it a momentum changer for the Spruce Kings? Well I guess we will find out after this weekend. In the meantime, take a look back at some of the hilites from the 3-2 overtime win against the Vernon Vipers.

video

The voices you hear are that of Todd Miller and Don Klepp from the Vernon broadcast.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Haunted House



All this week there is a special treat for the tricksters that come out at this time of the year. The old abandoned Saan store on the Hart Hwy has been taken over by an old hag, her pet, a number of creatures and an assortment of beings normally found in horror flicks. The Haunted House or rather the House of a 1000 Souls II is back this year and is creepier than ever.

If you haven't been before, or even if you have, you should check out the Haunted House that features a number of creaks, squeaks and things that go bump in the night that will give the hair on the back of your neck a rise, put goosebumps on your arms and get your heart racing just a little bit more than normal. The people behind the Haunted House have done a spectacular job, or rather spooktacular job, and left very little out.

All of your senses will get a chill and a thrill from the moment you step into the darkness from the outside. The visual elements are stunning with the use of lights, shadows and bog fog. As you stand outside the entrance to the house you will hear spine tingling screams over top of the eerie sounds of a truly horrific place reminiscent of an early horror movie.

The theatrical ambiance encompasses the entire 1500 square foot area of the once innocent family clothing store. Entering the rickety old house seems safe enough at first, but don't be too brave and don't think you can be cautious enough either. There are horrific sights and sounds at every corner waiting for you. Just when you think you've made it into a safe area, that's when you'll let your guard down and become the next victim of the residents of the Haunted House.

There is enough horrors in the house to get under the skin of the bravest of souls with corpses that come to life and turns that take you right into the mouth of fear itself. When you're looking to your left and to your right, don't forget to look behind you because the shadows have eyes too. Be careful also not to step on the Old Hag's pet ... a highly disturbing creature that will be sure to leave a lasting impression on your very psyche.

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a highly disturbing creature will greet you when you least expect in the House of 1000 Souls II

The master minds behind the Haunted House have left very little out and deserve to be credited for all their hard worked volunteer hours spent setting up the elaborate Haunted House and the Killmore Karnival. Pat and Dave Wenger, Michael Pockett and Barry Williams put their love for the scariest season of them all together and came up with a winner for the residents of Prince George as well as one non-profit group.

The Faternal Order of the Eagles are the big beneficiaries in this group effort as all proceeds from the Haunted House go to them this year. There is a small admission of $5.00 for all who want to brave the trip through the Haunted House, but it is well worth the cost. The creatures that wander the Haunted House are volunteers from around the city and include players from the Prince George Spruce Kings hockey club, some of which were fortunate enough to see the transformation of the Saan store first hand.

The Haunted House runs nightly from 5pm til 9pm with a special opening time on Saturday and Sunday of noon. On Saturday night there will also be a Masquerade Ball afterwards. For more information on the Haunted House you can call or text the Old Hag at 250.981.2565. The Haunted House is suitable for all ages and is also handicap accessible.



Members of the Spruce Kings just before they headed inside the Haunted House

Isaac Davies (middle) and Kirk Thompson (right) didn't see the troll behind them

A gargoyle stands guard at the entrance to the property that the Haunted House is on

The Old Hag's pet patrols the Haunted House keeping an eye on everybody

Alex Wright tries to figure out what is in the Yuk Buckets

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One From the Road

The Prince George Spruce Kings rolled in to Vernon to take on the Vernon Vipers Sunday afternoon with every excuse possible available for them. Coming off of two losses to the Trail Smoke Eaters to start a three game weekend in less than three days. A grueling bus ride that started on Thursday saw the team spend half the day in the bus traveling down to the Kootenays. After the late Saturday game (a 7:30pm start), the team then had to get back on the bus for a five hour trip to Vernon for a short sleep before heading to the rink at noon for the 2:00 game time.

Frustration, fatigue and a host of other excuses could have been used and accepted by a lot of people that know all to well how tough it is to play three games on the road. The players and the coaching staff weren't prepared to use those excuses and instead through them in the garbage can with the used tape. After the fact a few players admitted that some Red Bull did provide them with the wings and the energy to go the distance plus a little extra in the overtime win over the Vernon Vipers.

When the team came out onto the ice for their pregame skate, I was underneath the stands near the Spruce Kings tunnel. Standing there interviewing Tom Bohmer before the start of the game there was just something about the sounds in the arena that had me fired up. The pucks off the glass, the skates cutting into the ice and the song "Sandstorm" by Darude provided a charged up atmosphere and I got excited for the game. Bohmer was telling me about how the team had been building momentum in their two losses against the Trail Smoke Eaters and he had a believe that good things were on the horizon if the simple game plan was adhered too.

The coaching staff made very few changes from the previous two games except for maybe one. On a hockey instinct, head coach Ed Dempsey went with Kirk Thompson in goal and then added Nic DeSousa to centre up the top line of Zac Ashdown and RJay Berra. Justin Fillion and Trevor Esau started on the blueline. Early in the game the Vernon Vipers came up with some early shots on Thompson that got the eighteen year old rookie into the game early. As the period progressed the Spruce Kings found themselves just going with the flow but getting the job done.

With the first five minutes out of the way, the feeling started creeping into the game that this was one the Spruce Kings could steal away if they could get a few bounces to go their way. The first bounce was a neutral zone interception by Riley Spraggs who knocked down the puck and went in for the first real scoring chance for the Spruce Kings. That chance was followed up by two more back to back quality shots by the youngsters, Jujhar Khaira and Stephen Ryan.

The first period ended in a scoreless tie with both sides believing they had the edge in the play but neither having anything to show on the score clock. In the second period, the Spruce Kings found themselves hemmed inside their own zone again and again they were able to withstand the pressure. At one point the Vipers had a sure goal stolen away by Justin Fillion who was able to stop the puck behind Kirk Thompson along the goal line and clear the zone. That seemed to be another one of those bounces that went the Spruce Kings way and let to some more chances but still no goals ... for either team.

Just past the midway mark of the second period the Vernon Vipers were able to work the puck down the ice and eventually through the top of the crease and off the stick of Adam Hadley to open the scoring. A few seconds later the Vipers thought they scored again but were robbed again on the goal line this time by the quick glove of Thompson. Off the ensuing faceoff Trevor Esau started the defensive zone breakout with a nice pass to Connor Tiechko who tried to feed Chris Bodo through the neutral zone. The puck bounced off a defender`s skate and came right back to Tiechko who broke in over the Vipers blue line and from the high slot fired a wrister that beat Bryton udy cleanly. A whistle from the linseman who called Bodo offisde brought that one back.

Shortly after that the Vipers added to their lead when Dylan Walchuk was able to come out from the right side and dance through the crease before dropping the puck into the back of the net on the far side. The excuses were starting to be formed from those that didn't believe, but not the Spruce Kings. They kept digging and trying to come up with chances with an effort that resulted in their first power play chance. The Spruce Kings power play unit looked much improved on this night with the right side of the ice being utilized between Justin Fillion from the high slot to Zac Ashdown, Nic DeSousa and RJay Berra down low.

With the puck in the right corner, Ashdown was able to get it back to Fillion who fed back into the corner for Berra. The captain may have spotted the penalty door open or saw something else with DeSousa open on the far side, either way he decided to fire a quick shot from sharp angle. The shot took a Spruce Kings bounce off a defender's skate and deflected into the net. A bounce that went the way of the Spruce Kings in the form of an even strength goal scored just one second after the power play ended.

A few minutes later Brendon Fornwald found himself in the defensive zone without a stick. Fornwald from his knees on the top of the crease tried to throw the puck out of the zone. The puck was stopped by Malcolm Lyles on the right point who fired it back at the Spruce Kings goal. The shot was blocked by Trevor Esau who fell on the puck; with his back to the shooter, Esau lay on the puck waiting for the whistle when Lyles came in with a vicious spear. Fornwald saw this and immediately went to the assistance of his defense man and was knocked to the ice.

The incident drew a pair of minors for spearing and roughing in the eyes of Kris Hartley and when David Robinson went to question the calls he was assessed an unsportsman conduct penalty. The three minors put the Spruce Kings on an extended power play starting with a full two minute two man advantage. Again Justin Fillion quarterbacked the power play from the slot feeding the puck to Trent Murdoch who went down to the corner where Nic DeSousa and Zac Ashdown kept the puck in control and got it back to Murdoch. Faking the shot, Murdoch fired a had pass across to the top of the left side faceoff circle where Fillion was waiting for it and one-timed a bullet of shot labeled for the short side beating the goaltender and tieing the game up at two.

In the third period, both teams would trade chances with the Spruce Kings getting the puck in deep a few times. It would be the Vipers with the best scoring chances late in the game, but Kirk Thompson had his best saves of the game waiting in his glove. With 5:10 remaining in regulation time, a high shot found its way to the net and got Thompson just over the chest protector and just under the mask, hitting the goaltender in the collarbone. Thompson made the save but was slowing getting up bringing the trainer Bill Baldridge to the ice to check on the youngster.

It was only a short stoppage and provided the Spruce Kings with a bit of a breather for the final minutes of regulation time. The Vipers would get one more chance to win it in regulation time on a breakout from their own zone that saw Thompson rob the shooter with a quick glove at the 18:40 mark of the game. From there the final seconds ticked down leading to the four on four BCHL first overtime period. The Vipers would get the first chance to score with another shot high to the glove side of Thompson that again was caught and held.

The Spruce Kings would get their chance seconds later when Zac Ashdown sped down the right side wall and Chris Bodo joining him for a 2-on-1. While trying to get the pass across to Bodo, Ashdown was caught and hooked down from behind leaving the referee no choice but to make the hooking call. Ed Dempsey called a time out and drew up a faceoff play that seemed to work to perfection. Ashdown took the draw with a pair of right handed shooting forwards lined up on either side. Chris Bodo on the right, RJay Berra on the left and Justin Fillion behind. Ashdown won the draw and went straight to the net, both Bodo and Berra were able to get a stick on the puck and direct through traffic to Ashdown who slid it five hole for the overtime winner.

The goal gave the Spruce Kings their first overtime win in three tries and more importantly their first road victory of the season and the all important two points. Over in the Nicola Valley Arena, the Merritt Centennials were putting the finishing touches to a 4-1 win over the Quesnel Millionaires for their second win in a row. The win by Prince George leaves them one point back of the Quesnel Millionaires and three points back of the Merritt Centennials. The Spruce Kings next two game will be huge as they are both against the Centennials in the Castle on Friday night and Sunday afternoon with the Centennials also playing Saturday night in Quesnel while the Spruce Kings will be idol that night.

It was an entertaining game for a number of reasons, but none more so than the fact that the Spruce Kings did not just roll over and take it when the excuses were there to defend them. Out of the twenty man roster that dressed for the Sunday afternoon game, you would be hard pressed to find a player that didn't contribute to the final outcome. Just selecting the three stars was tough and Vernon found themselves missing out on choosing perhaps the best player on the ice as Justin Fillion was strong both offensively and defensively in the game. Kirk Thompson was sensational in goal and of course Zac Ashdown's overtime winner almost automatically gives him a star. RJay Berra had another strong game and all four were selected in the game broadcast for a star with Berra getting the Generator Player of the Game nod.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back Half of the Double Header

When you look at the final score and sometimes even just the boxscore, it is easy to miss what happened in a game and where things went right or even where they went wrong. For the Spruce Kings on Friday night, they did a lot of things right and created many chances because of some good effort and work ethic.

When seeing just the 7-3 loss, a much improved effort is lost in those numbers. The Spruce Kings did have that much improved effort in their first meeting of the season against the Trail Smoke Eaters. In fact the first three shifts all had a shot on goal and one good chance to open the scoring. Before the game was two minutes old, they also found themselves on the powerplay with a double minor from a tripping and checking from behind call.

It was a double minor and should of actually been a two man advantage instead, but those are the kind of things that the Spruce Kings have gotten used to dealing with as the season has unfolded before them. The power play generated another three scoring chances for the Spruce Kings, but chances were all they would get on the man advantage.

When the Trail Smoke Eaters got their first power play, they too were only able to generate chances. The difference was the six seconds after the penalized player stepped onto the ice and tried to get involved in the defensive zone. As if it was a sign of things to come, Scott Jacklin found himself picking up his stick and glove from the ice after losing it in a battle in the slot. After gearing up, Jacklin found the puck and was able to start a play that got the Spruce Kings turned around in their own zone and eventually the puck ended up on Sam Mellor's stick and into the back of the net.

The Spruce Kings weren't about to let this one slip by as they went back to work on their own offense. After setting up two previous scoring chances the resulted in shots on goal, Jujhar Khaira found himself behind the Trail Smoke Eaters net with the puck and spotted a wide open Kyle Manlow in the slot. With a perfect centering pass Khaira fed Manlow who then out waited Kiefer Smiley and then fired a high shot over the blocker of the goaltender to tie the game at 1.

The first would end that way as the two teams went to their respective dressing rooms. In the second period it was a pair of lifetime friends and team mates that put the visitors up by one. Justin Fillion was able to glove the puck down at the blue line and saucered a perfect pass that went over a defender's stick and landed flat on the ice for RJay Berra who came straight down the slot. With a forehand backhand deke, Berra beat Smiley high on the glove side.

That lead was short lived when a puck was mishandled coming out of the Spruce Kings with the team on the powerplay. Scott Jacklin was right there to pick up the loose puck and moved in untouched and put on his own moves on Alex Wright before sliding it under the Spruce Kings netminder. The short handed goal proved to be a turning point in the game as the Smoke Eaters would add three more in the second to take a 5-2 lead to the dressing room.

Like their first goal, the Trail Smoke Eaters third goal came seconds after the Spruce Kings had killed off a penalty ... and worse still it was banked in off a Spruce Kings player. The next two goals both came on the power play for Trail with Faiz Khan in the penalty box for high sticking and then Jujhar Khaira in the box for a retaliation slash.

In the third period the Spruce Kings closed the gap with a hard working solo effort from one of the newest acquistions to the team. Winning a puck battle along the half wall, Zac Ashdown made his way to the net and powered himself into the crease. Smiley was able to make the initial save but the puck was left there for Ashdown to reach back and flick it into the net. With bodies crashing in the blue paint, the goal was originally awarded to Nic DeSousa until video was used to show that the hard work and continuous effort resulted in Ashdown's first as a member of the Spruce Kings.

Any chance of a comeback was snuffed out by the Smoke Eaters as they scored two in less than a minute before the mid way mark of the third period. Behind on the score board 7-3, the coaching staff made the decision to pull Alex Wright to see if his team could generate some momentum for the back half of the weekend double header with the Trail Smoke Eaters.

The return matchup between the two teams is less than 24 hours later - 7:30pm in the Cominco Arena. Looking over the game tape after the game and also during the next day uncovered a few things that the coaching staff will try to use as motivation and strategy for tonight's game. In the words of assistant coach, Tom Bohmer, "70 percent of everything the team did, they did right." Obviously the message is to find that missing percentage and come away with two points tonight.

Game time tonight is 7:30 with the game being broadcast in Prince George on 93.1 CFIS-FM. It will also be available online from the radio station's website and also from the Spruce Kings website as well as the BCHL Fanzone. Audio only webcast will start at 7:15pm with the pregame show, Ron Gallo will provide the play-by-play and then a look back at the game during the Predator Paintball post game show.

Following the game tonight the Spruce Kings will travel into Vernon for their 2pm matinee meeting with the Vernon Vipers. It will be the first time the Spruce Kings have played the Vipers in their arena this season and if things go well on Saturday, the Spruce Kings already know that they have picked up one of their wins against the Vipers.

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Half of a Weekend Doubleheader

With travel costs and just travel in general to consider when it comes to making up the season schedule, every once in awhile a gem like this gets booked. And I do expect this to be a gem of a mini-series between the Trail Smoke Eaters and the Prince George Spruce Kings. It is the first meeting of the season between the two teams and there is just something to be said about when these two meet each other.

Last year the teams only played a total of four games against each other with all but one of them being decided by one goal. The two in Trail both went to overtime with Trail winning one in the first overtime period and Prince George winning the first one in double overtime. In the 2008-09 season, these two teams met in Trail for a double header that again saw one of the games go to overtime with Sam Muchalla scoring the game winner from Wes McLeod and Zach Davies.

Overtimes aside, these two teams have played each other tough in their recent histories and have had some great games with a physical edge to them. The games in Trail may have another significance as the Spruce Kings have used them in the past to turn things around. Something the team would like nothing more to do than tonight.

The Trail Smoke Eaters have been on a roll to start the season and find themselves in second place of the Interior Division with a number of players contributing big numbers offensively. The team has stubbed its toe a couple of times but has been able to recover quickly and get back on track. Most recently was a devastating loss to the Penticton Vees when they had a two goal lead late in the game and a power play to boot. Their most recent game was an overtime win against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on home ice Wednesday night.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are at the front end of an extended eight game home stand that features the double header with the Spruce Kings this weekend, another double header with the Quesnel Millionaires next weekend, two visits from the Penticton Vees and a single with the Victoria Grizzlies. The Trail Smoke Eaters will then head north where they will play in the Coliseum twice before returning home to host the Spruce Kings on November 20th.

With a total of five matchups in less than thirty days between these two teams, its a safe bet to make that both teams will want to assert themselves early in the five game series. With tonight`s game being the first, the Smoke Eaters are going to be relying on their success to this point in the season to get them through the early introductions, while the Spruce Kings will be looking to build on the positives that they have been able to generate.

One of those positives has been the work on the penalty kill allowing only one power play goal against in the last eleven short handed situations where the one was scored with two men in the box. Other positives include the improvement in other areas of the game especially the faceoff circle where winning a faceoff becomes instrumental in generating momentum. The four centres in charge of winning the majority of draws tonight are Kyle Manlow, Nic DeSousa, Connor Tiechko and Stephen Ryan.

Line combinations will see Manlow between Jujhar Khaira (left) and Trent Murdoch (right), DeSousa between Zac Ashdown (left) and RJay Berra (right), Tiechko between Faiz Khan (left) and Chris Bodo (right) as well as Ryan between Brendan Fornwald (left) and Riley Spraggs (right). Justin Fillion, Trevor Esau, Derek Henderson, Jeff Datoff, Isaac Davies and Jeremy Wiebe will provide the defensive pairings with Alex Wright expected to get the start in goal.

On the other side of the ice, the Spruce Kings will have to be wary of a few players as the Trail Smoke Eaters have shown some scoring depth with a majority of the points coming from Sam Mellor (19g 13a), Travis St. Dennis (14g 14a) and Scott Jacklin (6g 21a). For the first of these two meetings, Kiefer Smiley is expected to get the start for the Smoke Eaters with his 2.74 goals against average and 92.11 save percentage.

As a team the Trail Smoke Eaters have been averaging 3.60 goals a game while allowing 3.10 goals against. On home ice they have established a strong presence against their opponents with a record of 6-1-0-1, they are 8th in the league on home ice for powerplay goals, 5th on the penalty kill and have outscored their opposition 35-21 in those eight games.

The Spruce Kings are still looking for their first win on the road this season. Talking with a few players about their recent struggles, the common consensus is that this is a fluke and not an indication of the team or the players abilities. The mood is still optimistic and positive and there have been many signs leaving me to believe that this is a hurdle that will be overcome ... will it be cleared tonight?

Game time is 7:30pm in the Cominco Arena in Trail with the game being broadcast in Prince George on 93.1 CFIS-FM and also online from the radio station's website or the Spruce Kings website (please note at the time this blog was being written, the Spruce Kings website was down ... you can access the broadcast at http://ustream.tv/channel/spruce-kings)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Battle of the Kings in the Castle

The Spruce Kings will return home to defend their Castle against the Powell River Kings. The visitors are on to their second stop of a five game road trip that has seen them bust into the Vault where they took two points away from the Quesnel Millionaires. The Coastal Conference Kings will also have stops in Merritt and Salmon Arm this weekend before closing out their road trip in Coquitlam.

The Spruce Kings have this one game on home ice before hitting the road for another three in three days including a double header with the Trail Smoke Eaters and a Sunday afternoon affair in Vernon against the Vipers.

The Spruce Kings will have two new players in the lineup for tonight with Trent Murdoch and Zac Ashdown donning the Crown after being acquired in separate deals earlier in the week. Both players have been skating with their new team mates and will be looking to add their contributions to the team tonight. Murdoch will be wearing jersey number 15 and Ashdown will be wearing jersey number 25.

Murdoch is no stranger to life in the Interior Division having played last season with the Williams Lake Timberwolves where he finished second in team scoring. Murdoch found himself in Alberni Valley playing for the Bulldogs for the start of this season. Both players have some familiarity with their opponents tonight with Zac Ashdown maybe having a bit more. Ashdown played a full season with the Nanaimo Clippers before ending up with the Burnaby Express for last season and the start of this season with the team in Coquitlam.

The addition of the two players will make for a few new line combinations. To start the game Murdoch will be playing on the left wing with Nic DeSousa (centre) and RJay Berra (right). Ashdown will also start on the left side with Connor Tiechko (centre) and Riley Spraggs (right). The other expected line combinations will see Faiz Khan (left), Jujhar Khaira (centre) and Chris Bodo (right) along with Brendon Fornwald (left), Stephen Ryan (centre) and Kyle Manlow (right). Justin Fillion, Trevor Esau, Jeremy Wiebe, Derek Henderson, Isaac Davies and Jeff Datoff will take care of things from the blue line.

Another new name to the Spruce Kings roster is a familiar face to the team even if it is hid behind a mask during the game. Alex Wright is expected to get his first start on home ice this season as he makes his return to the Spruce Kings after spending last season with the Prince George Cougars. As a twenty year old this year, Alex says he is looking to make this his best season and be a leader for the team both on and off the ice.

Alex has already posted some respectable career numbers from his earlier tenure with the team. A save percentage of 90.4 is fifth best and a 2.80 goals against average is third best among goaltenders that have played a minimum of 1500 minutes for the team. As for those minutes, Wright could find himself in the top five of that stat too having already taken over seventh spot after playing the full sixty minutes in Quesnel on Saturday night.

The Spruce Kings are looking for the new players to add that missing ingredient and provide the boost that will get the team out of its current pothole. The team has played well enough to have a better record than it does especially against those teams that have found early season success. That trend will have to continue tonight against a team that is has been putting up points in three out of every four games they play.

The Powell River Kings come into the Castle with a record of 10 wins, 3 losses, 1 tie and 1 overtime loss good enough for 22 points in 15 games. Leading the way are a pair of college committed players in Chad Niddery (8g 17a) and Matt Garbowsky (8g 12a). Niddery just committed this week to Ohio State while Garbowsky is set to attend RIT next season.

One player from the Powell River Kings that is sure to have his own cheering section tonight is Michael Garteig who hails from Prince George. Of the 14 games Garteig has played in, 9 have been wins and another was a tie. Garteig has posted 3 shutouts this season and has a 1.68 goals against average and a 92.83 save percentage.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spruce Kings Rookie Getting Noticed

Spruce Kings sixteen year old rookie Jujhar Khaira is starting to emerge out of obscurity and onto a much brighter stage. Earlier today he was the subject of The Hockey News Prospect Watch feature. The Hockey News has long been the standard for news from the hockey world. With their Prospect Watch feature, they "focus on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey leagues looking for players destined to become big names in the NHL."

In this particular case they did veer away from the traditional feeding grounds and went to the league that has been establishing itself over the past number of years as another source of professional talent. What they found was a gem that had been overlooked by other teams and even other leagues. In a list of ten players dating back to the beginning of August, that have been chronicled in the Prospect Watch feature, seven have already been drafted and one other was signed as a free agent to the NHL. Two of the players are draft eligible in 2012 with the other sixteen year old playing major junior this year.

Being in that company, you know Jujhar Khaira is truly a special player and being identified so early in his first year of junior eligibility shows that. The Spruce Kings scouting network has reason to be pretty proud of themselves right now. Here's a player that went through the Bantam Draft undetected and came out the other side happy that he was missed and given the opportunity to play with the Spruce Kings.

Speaking with Jujhar, I can tell you that his focus remains on playing the game at the highest level possible while earning an NCAA Division I scholarship. It is quite possible that the next press release from the Spruce Kings office will be just that as schools have been making their intention known. Scouts have been coming to Prince George and following the team on the road to watch this young man play.

What follows is the complete article written by Ryan Kennedy and reprinted here with permission from the Hockey News. The original article and other Prospect Watch articles are available online from the Hockey News website (click here).

Some pros were scouted from the day they hit puberty, their ascendancies breathlessly catalogued by bird-dogs, GMs and the media. But the path of the late-bloomer is also well-worn and when a kid starts putting up numbers, you wonder how all the experts fell asleep at the switch.

Jujhar Khaira (photo courtesy Andrea Johnson)
Size is often a factor and the now 6-foot-1, 180-pound Jujhar Khaira (pronounced Judge-ar Care-ah) is raising eyebrows in Jr. A.

Just 16 years old, the center for the Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia League is having a breakout season, posting 16 points through 14 games in a league generally dominated by older players. As an example, the team's leading scorer, RJay Berra, is a full four years older than Khaira, who went undrafted in his Western League bantam year, but wasn't too shocked by the omission.

"I don't think there was any expectation, to tell you the truth," Khaira said. "But it has been a great motivator for me."

The Surrey, B.C. native plans to go to an NCAA program once he's finished high school, anyway, but the Spruce Kings are glad they found him when they did.

"Jujhar's off to a real good start," said coach Ed Dempsey. "He came to one of our prospect camps and we identified him there, then he came to training camp and did very well.”

Coming from the Vancouver suburbs, small-town Prince George is a definite geographic shift for the youngster, but he's having a ball.

"I love it," Khaira said. "There are so many people that actually love hockey and everyone knows what's going on."

And what Spruce Kings fans have seen so far is a big kid who can move and score.

"He's a very gifted two-way player and a big man who's very mobile," Dempsey said. "He's got a great shot with a great release and he gets from Point A to Point B quicker than you think."

But Khaira's play isn't the only reason he gets noticed. Coming from the multicultural haven of Surrey, he's one of the few South Asian faces in hockey. Along with teammate Faiz Khan, Khaira is part of a growing group of players that includes Canucks pick Prab Rai, Buffalo prospect Kevin Sundher, Boston University's Sahir Gill and of course Vancouver's Manny Malhotra.

"I was probably the only brown kid on my team every year of minor hockey," said Khaira, who was glad to see Malhotra sign with the Canucks, but also lists Ryan Kesler and Sidney Crosby as his favorite players.

And while Khaira, NHL draft eligible in 2012, enjoys showing off hockey's growing diversity, he also acknowledges it's pretty early in the game to consider himself a role model. After all, he's still 16. But the presence he has brought to the ice so far in Prince George puts him in a different class.

"It's not often a 16-year-old comes in and has such a major impact," Dempsey said. "It's definitely a unique situation. He's a player that slipped through the cracks. He's a 1994 (birthday), so it's hard to call him a late-bloomer."

But the BCHL is glad to have him. One of the most consistent Jr. A leagues when it comes to churning out top talent, the BCHL has also been a springboard for players such as New Jersey's Travis Zajac, Colorado's David Jones and Phoenix's Kyle Turris.

Khaira will likely play another full season with the Spruce Kings before heading off to college and given what he's done as a freshman, that's a pretty scary notion for the rest of the league.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Looking Back at the Island Roadtrip

The Vancouver Island roadtrip did not start off the best but as it progressed the team showed positive signs as they hit the quarter mark of their regular season. In the first game on Wednesday night in Duncan against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, the Spruce Kings found themselves down 5-0 to a very physical team that started taking some liberties on the visitors.

One particular play led to a five minute major for a check to the head putting the Spruce Kings on an extended powerplay. RJay Berra did get the Spruce Kings on the board and that was followed up by what looked like good goals from both Brendon Fornwald and another from RJay Berra but were both waved off after the play by the referee.

As if that wasn't enough to zap team morale, the Spruce Kings would suffer another significant loss just moments later. On an offside play Nic DeSousa was cross checked in the back on the blue line and then the offending player turned his stick on Justin Fillion and cross checked him to the ice with a hit from behind. The extracurricular activity led to a multiple fight situation that left the officials confused as to who was involved in the altercations.

To add insult to Fillion's injury, he was assessed a fighting major and game misconduct; Brendon Fornwald was also tagged for the same infraction. After a league review the penalties were straightened out but with the new Junior A Supplement discipline document in effect this season, the additional fights drew two game suspensions each. Head coach Ed Dempsey was also assessed a single game suspension, despite being clearly seen on the bench restraining his players to make sure the situation didn't get farther out of hand.

When the dust settled after that first game the Spruce Kings had two new injuries to contend with and the pair of suspensions leaving the team three skaters short for their game in Nanaimo against the Clippers. The Clippers who were hungry for their first home ice victory showed the visitors just how hungry they were and jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before the Spruce Kings could find a tally of their own. But it was far too little as the Clippers handed the Spruce Kings their worst loss of the season.

The Spruce Kings then headed to Port Alberni for third game of the road trip against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. The Spruce Kings were able to keep this game close despite giving up an early first goal, tying the game up at one before surrendering a power play goal later in the first and another in the second.

In the third period of Saturday's the veterans combined forces to mount a comeback, RJay Berra got it started with a powerplay tally. Unfortunately the Bulldogs would respond with two of their own before Nic DeSousa picked up a pair including a last minute short handed tally, but that was as close as the team could get dropping a 5-4 decision. Just before DeSousa's two goals, a large salmon was thrown on the ice during the play just missing Jeff Earnest as the city of Port Alberni decided to use this game to celebrate the recent announcement that they were the salmon fishing capital of the world.

The Spruce Kings wrapped up their road trip in the province's capital against the Victoria Grizzlies. Before the game was nine minutes old the Grizzlies found themselves up 2-0 over the visitors on the only two shots that would beat Kirk Thompson. The eighteen year old rookie was nothing short of sensational on this night robbing the Grizzlies of sure goals numerous times.

The loan marker on the night for the Spruce Kings came just after the nine minute mark of the first period on a nice play started by Derek Henderson to keep the puck in the offensive zone. From there it was the forecheck of Connor Tiechko that caused the Victoria defenceman to cough up the puck, Tiechko gave it to a wide open Faiz Khan who made no mistake finding the open part of the net for his fourth of the season.

From that point out though neither team could find a way to score another although the Spruce Kings celebrated a goal in the second period. From the right side faceoff circle, Chris Bodo let go a high hard shot that the Grizzlies netminder was able to deflect off his shoulder. The netminder went one way and the rebound went the other way behind the net. On a head's up play from the impossible angle, Tiechko banked the puck off a diving defenseman's leg as the defender slid into the back of the net.

With the Spruce Kings heading down the other end of the ice to celebrate the goal with their goaltender, the referee listened to pleas of the Victoria Grizzlies players and then talked with the goal judge. Before the Spruce Kings could back down the ice to get in on the conversation, the referee gave the signal of no goal on the goal judge's explanation that he did not see the puck cross the line through the bodies. In the third period the Spruce Kings did not fare much better and would eventual surrender an empty net goal on their 41st shot on net.

With the first quarter of the season now done, the Spruce Kings are obviously looking for a better second quarter. After playing 15 games in 30 days, the Spruce Kings will get a little more down time between games with their next 15 taking 42 days to play out.

With the exception of the Powell River Kings, the opposition in the second quarter will come from the Interior Conference with five games against the Trail Smoke Eaters; two against the Vernon Vipers, Merritt Centennials and Westside Warriors. Singles against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Penticton Vees and Quesnel Millionaires round out the next fifteen games with the money men next up on Saturday night in the Vault.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Spruce Kings vs Victoria Grizzlies Preview

The Spruce Kings will wrap up their Vancouver Island roadtrip today with a stop in the Bear Mountain Arena where they will face off against the Victoria Grizzlies. The Spruce Kings have had their fair share of troubles picking up points on this roadtrip and will be hoping to build on a strong third period performance in last night's game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

The Spruce Kings went into the dog pound and found themselves down 1-0 just 1:07 into the first period, but this time things were a little different as they battled back and evened the score. With the Bulldogs trying to get out of their own zone, Faiz Khan stepped up and intercepted the puck and get it over to Chris Bodo. Using his trademark speed and a slick move, Bodo was able to get the puck onto his forehand and wristed in his sixth goal of the season to tie the game at one.

The Bulldogs would restore their one goal lead on a powerplay goal that came from behind the net and saw Trent Murdoch fake right and then come back left to wrap the puck around the short side post. The Bulldogs would add another powerplay goal in the second period to go up 3-1 after forty minutes of play.

In the third the Spruce Kings would get a powerplay tally of their own, RJay Berra's ninth goal of the season was set up by Nic DeSousa and brought the team to within one goal. The Bulldogs Trent Murdoch re-established a two goal lead with his second of the game and then Casey Bailey added an additional insurance marker which would stand up as the game winner despite a valiant effort by the Spruce Kings.

With time running out in the third period and a faceoff in the neutral zone, the Spruce Kings won the draw and went in on the attack only to be interrupted by a large salmon that was thrown on the ice stopping play. After cleaning up the forty pound pride of Port Alberni, the Spruce Kings won the subsequent faceoff inside the Bulldogs zone. From behind the net, Berra passed the puck to DeSousa in the left faceoff circle who spun away from a check and in one motion snapped on into the far side top shelf giving the Spruce Kings some more life.

Unfortunately down by two with less than two minutes remaining, the Spruce Kings ended up with a penalty but not without hope. Again with a faceoff win in the Bulldogs zone, Berra found DeSousa in front of the net off the draw where DeSousa toe dragged around the goaltender and deposited his second of the game to get the game to within one. Still shorthanded, the Spruce Kings pulled Ryan Benitez to put five skaters on the ice. With another faceoff win, the Spruce Kings advanced into Bulldogs zone but could not get the equalizer before the final horn sounded.

Still the team will need to take that new found momentum from winning the third period with them into their final game against the Victoria Grizzlies. The Grizzlies were one of two BCHL teams that sat idol last night watching the proceedings after defeating the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-2 on Friday night. The Bears are sitting with a .500 record having won four, lost four and an overtime loss in the nine games they have played so far this season. They are 3-3 in six games played in the Bear Mountain Arena.

Led by Cornell University bound Joel Lowry up front and Sean Robertson on the back end, both nineteen year olds have nine points to start the season. Robertson's contribution comes from setting up his teammates having collected eight assists nine games while Lowry is a little more balanced with four goals and five helpers in eight games. Another Cornell committed player, Madison Dias has found the back of the net five times for the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies have been relying on Matt Ginn who played in three games at the 2009 World Junior A Challenge for Team Canada East. Ginn has posted four wins and four losses with a 3.02 goals against average and 91.32 save percentage. The backup, Tanner McGaw has played in one complete game in his rookie season in the BCHL. The head coach and general manager of the Victoria Grizzlies is also a Spruce Kings alumni.

Game time today is 4:30pm from the Bear Mountain Arena with the game available only online as an audio webcast from the Spruce Kings website or from the BCHL Pay-Per-View with Ron Gallo providing the call of the game for both broadcasts.

Following the game, the team will hit the road for home catching the last ferry off the Island to be home in time for some left over turkey dinner on Monday. On behalf of the entire team, we would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Spruce Kings vs Bulldogs Preview

The Spruce Kings will be moving from the proverbial doghouse to the dog pound today as they head out on their Vancouver Island road trip to Port Alberni to play the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. A stinging loss last night that saw the Nanaimo Clippers win their first home game of the season and end a seven game winless streak with an exclamation mark.

Kyle Manlow had the first shot on goal, a sharp wrister labelled for the top corner far side that the Clippers goaltender was able to just get a piece of. That shot would be the last for the Spruce Kings until a pair on the powerplay fourteen minutes later. The time in between was all Nanaimo's as they tallied four goals including a penalty shot goal.

The light turned on for the Spruce Kings with a power play that saw the Spruce Kings work the puck around and get two good shots on goal. Justin Fillion, Jeff Earnest, Faiz Khan, Chris Bodo and finally Jujhar Khaira all touched the puck as it was moved around the offensive zone before Khaira slid his third powerplay goal and fifth of the season to put the Spruce Kings on the board.

That light was quickly turned off again for the visitors as the home team responded less than thirty seconds later to restore their four goal lead. The Clippers then scored twice more in a span of 11 seconds and added an eighth with ten seconds left in the first period. A first period that saw the Spruce Kings outshot 23-5 and outscored 8-1.

The second period was pretty much even with both teams registering nine shots on goal but neither team adding to their first period numbers. Having settled down in the middle frame, the Spruce Kings tried to rally in the third but could not get any bounces and gave up another goal before RJay Berra scored his team leading eighth of the season. It was a nice play that showed a crack in the armour of the Clippers as they coughed up the puck with both the goaltender and defenceman behind the net leaving Berra and easy roll and tuck into the open net.

Bright spots on the night were few and far between as the Spruce Kings were forced to play the game with a short bench with only 15 skaters and the two goaltenders. Jeff Datoff and Brendon Fornwald were both serving the first of their two game suspensions as a result of a multiple fight situation on Wednesday night versus the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Stephen Ryan and Bennett Hambrook sat in the stands nursing their injuries they had suffered in the same game.

Also out of the game was the head coach, Ed Dempsey as a result of a mandatory one game suspension that now exists in the Junior A Supplement discipline document. Jason Garneau assumed the role of head coach for the game, his first BCHL game as a head coach. For tonight's game Ed Dempsey will be back behind the bench but the two players will have to sit for one more. That has led to the Spruce Kings calling up an Junior B player from the Victoria Cougars of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.

Sam Rice, who has played one game as an AP with the Cowichan Valley Capitals last season, is celebrating his 18th birthday today. Rice is a 6' 01" 190 right handed forward who will be wearing jersey #2 tonight. Rice will meet up with the Spruce Kings just before the team loads the bus to leave for Port Alberni. With the short bench still a factor in the game, Rice can expect to get a good chuck of icetime for his birthday.

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs may be a little nippy tonight after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Victoria Grizzlies in the Bear Mountain Arena last night. The Grizzlies scored twice on the 5-on-3 man advantage and added an empty netter for the win. The loss leaves the Bulldogs sitting in fifth place in the Coastal Conference with 11 points (5-2-1-0) in 8 games played.

The Bulldogs have posted some decent offensive numbers and have been averaging 3.30 goals a game, but they have given up just about as much with a 3.10 goals against average. The offensive threat for the Bulldogs are a brother combination with Sam and Josh Mitchell combining for 19 points (9 goals and 10 assists). Sam has been the goal scorer with 6 while his younger brother has been the setup man with 7 assists.

So far this season only Frank Slubowski has been between the pipes for the team and has posted numbers that put him in the top ten in goal goals against (2.93) and save percentage (90.73). Last season, Slubowski register both wins for the Bulldogs over the Spruce Kings including a shutout in the dog pound. The unknown entity for the 'dogs is Kiefer Giroux a rookie this year that calls Nanaimo home.

The Spruce Kings will have to sort out their current situation and the sooner the better as they will hit the quarter mark of the season Sunday afternoon when they play the Victoria Grizzlies. Game time tonight is 7:00pm from the Weyehauser Arena in Port Alberni, game broadcast will start at 6:45 and can be heard in Prince George on CFIS-FM 93.1 or online from the Spruce Kings website.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Spruce Kings vs Clippers Preview

History: The last meeting between these two teams in the Frank Crane Arena was on January 27th. In that game the Spruce Kings held onto a brief lead before the Clippers were able to force overtime. The game ended with Myles Fitzgerald setting up the game winner 36 seconds into the second overtime period. A week later the two teams met in Prince George and saw the Spruce Kings control the game from start to finish to win it 5-2. In eleven games played over the previous six seasons, the Spruce Kings have come away with almost a .500 record with 4 wins, 5 losses, 1 tie and 1 overtime loss.

The Spruce Kings are coming off a bit of a stinging loss to the Cowichan Valley Capital that will see the team running with a short bench as a result of two suspensions and two more injuries. Out of the lineup for the Spruce Kings will be Luke Hannas (injury) who stayed in Prince George to shake off the affects of a check from behind into to the glass in a game against the Surrey Eagles.

Joining Hannas on the IR list is Bennett Hambrook and Stephen Ryan as a result of separate plays in the game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. In a multiple fight situation from the same game, the Spruce Kings will be without the services of Brendon Fornwald and Jeff Datoff.

For Datoff, this is untimely as he was looking forward to playing in front of family and friends in his home town. As for Fornwald, the suspension came just moments after he had his first BCHL goal disallowed. With the two suspensions and three injuries heading into tonight's game, the Spruce Kings will be down to 15 skaters missing two forwards and a defenceman.

These are just more challenges that the Spruce Kings will have to overcome if they are to find success on their Island roadtrip that will now pick up steam with three games in three nights. First up is the Nanaimo Clippers who have seen their fair share of difficulties getting out of the gate this season.

The Clippers have played the fewest amount of games to-date in the BCHL. In eight games the boatmen have five points with a 1-4-1-2 record. They have scored 22 times and allowed 33 goals against. In comparison the Spruce Kings have played a dozen games with a record of 2-8-0-2 scoring 35 times while allowing 56 goals against. That equates to a slightly better goals for average of 2.90 but slightly higher goals against with an average of 4.70 to the Clippers 4.10.

The Clippers roster features the Fitzgerald triplets who have some experience in the BCHL from playing as APs last season. So far this year Myles, Leo and Gerry Fitzgerald have combined for 13 points but it's the rookie defenceman Samuel Labrecque that leads team scoring with five goals and a pair of assists. Other noteables on the Clippers roster include the twenty year old veteran Mike Domsodi (3g 4a) and Andrew Gladiuk (3g 3a).

There is a French connection between the pipes with Charles-Andre Pelletier and Charles-Alexy Premont both coming from the province of Quebec. Pelletier has played in five games and has a 90.04 save percentage to show for his efforts to go along with his 3.51 goals against average.

With Nanaimo's lone win coming in the season opener, it should be no surprise to learn that the team scouted their opposition on Wednesday night and will be coming at the Spruce Kings hard to see if they can knock them off their game and set the tempo of the game early. The Spruce Kings will have to be prepared for that and will more than likely be looking to play the "perfect road game" and keep things toned down and use some of their own offensive weapons up front.

Game time is 7:11 (wonder who the game sponsor is tonight?) with the game being broadcast back home on CFIS-FM 93.1 and also online from the Spruce Kings website ... just click the CFIS-FM Listen Live link. The broadcast will be an audio only broadcast with video of the game available from the BCHL Pay-Per-View website.

Suspensions to Start Island Roadtrip

In a word the first game on Vancouver Island for the Prince George Spruce Kings was ugly. It started ugly and it got uglier. Nothing was going right for the Spruce Kings on Wednesday when they met the Cowichan Valley Capitals under the big stick in Duncan.

The Capitals were able to capitalize on two power play goals in the first period and then they added a short handed tally and another in the final minute on a 4-on-4 situation. To start the second period, the Capitals scored an even strength goal to make it a 5-0 game and leave the Spruce Kings in a hole that they couldn't climb out of without a lot of help or luck ... neither of which they would get on this night.

A 5-0 score was ugly for sure, but things got uglier when a Cowichan Valley Capitals player launched himself off the ice and planted a forearm smash directly on the chin of sixteen year old Stephen Ryan sending the youngster to the ice in a heap. The officiating crew handed out a five minute major for the check to the head and the automatic game misconduct that goes with that penalty.

On the ensuing five minute powerplay, RJay Berra was the recipient of a perfectly placed pass from Faiz Khan leaving the Spruce Kings captain a one-timer that put the visitors on the board. With the score 5-1 and still three minutes remaining in the five minute major, there was a glimmer of hope for the team and they seemed to respond.

On a subsequent play Kyle Manlow was able to get a shot from in close on the Capitals netminder who made the save but left a rebound sitting on the top of the crease for Brendon Fornwald to shovel into the far side. Fornwald's celebration quickly turned to disbelief as the referee waved off the goal citing that he lost sight of the puck and believed that it had been covered up by the goaltender.

The Spruce Kings shook that off and on the very next play found themselves on another offensive zone attack. RJay Berra and Nic DeSousa left the zone with a trailer on the play giving the Spruce Kings a 3-on-2 rush through the neutral zone. Berra dropped for DeSousa who went in with speed and got a shot off that again was stopped and again was left sitting in the open. Berra came down and was able to get his stick on the puck flipping it into the back of the net. Again after a brief discussion, the referee came out of the crowd waving his arms to signal no goal.

At 15:57 of the second period, with the teams back to full strength another Spruce Kings rush went offside. The Capitals back checker cross checked Nic DeSousa in the back and then turned his attention in the direction of Spruce Kings bench where Justin Fillion was trying to get off on the line change. Fillion was slightly impeded by another Capitals player when he was tagged hard in the small of his back with a two-hander that sent Fillion to the ice and the Capitals player into the Spruce Kings bench.

Three fights broke out in succession all around Fillion who still remained on the ice feeling the affects of the cross check he had just taken. In all of the action, the officiating crew incorrectly identified Justin Fillion as one of the fighters and gave the twenty year old defenceman a fighting major and game misconduct ... truly adding insult to injury.

With the new rules designed to crackdown on this exact occurrence from happening, the team still waits to find out who will get assessed suspensions for being involved in a multiple fight situation where no instigator call was made. *update* After the league reviewed the game tape, Justin Fillion has been reinstated leaving Brendon Fornwald and Jeff Datoff sitting with a pair of suspensions each.

Later in the second period, the Spruce Kings would make it a 5-2 game with their second powerplay goal. Connor Tiechko picked up his first of the season from the right side of the net where he found the inside of the far side post. Before the second period was over, the Capitals added to their offensive numbers finding a way to get their sixth into the back of the net with only five seconds remaining in the middle frame.

To start the third period, Chris Bodo and Jujhar Khaira were able to work the puck around to the top of the right side faceoff circle where Faiz Khan wristed in the Spruce Kings third of the game. Again the Capitals were able to answer back and hold onto their four goal lead. The Spruce Kings would get one more to dent the deficit ... a short handed goal that was a result of a left point shot from Isaac Davies that sailed wide and bounced off the back wall to a wide open Chris Bodo who picked up his fifth of the season.

That would be it for the goal scoring as the Spruce Kings stumbled in their first of four on the Island during their current road trip. The Island tour continues on with a game against the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday night, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday and a stop in the province's capital to play the Victoria Grizzlies on Sunday before heading home.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Setting The Bar For Sam

In my quest to locate and keep tabs on the growing list of alumni, I came upon this particular blog about Sam Muchalla. It is quite complimentary and I must say well informed describing Sam as "slightly undersized" but having the "finesse ... to overcome this."

It also talks about his work ethic and dedication to his team and to winning, something that Spruce Kings fans don't need to be reminded of. Sam continues to stay in touch with the team and follows them both on and off the ice as I hope to do for his college hockey career. The bar has already been set high for last year's captain of the Spruce Kings. A self proclaimed unofficial blog of Northern Michigan University has Muchalla stepping in to the skates of last year's points leader.

Well here, you can read it for yourself ...

Sam Muchalla
Sam Muchalla will most likely be the bandage that will fill the gap left by 2009-10 CCHA points leader Mark Olver (19-30-49 in 40 games). Muchalla comes from the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL, a Canadian Junior A team. Muchalla was able to avoid being considered ineligible for NCAA play by choosing a Junior A squad in lieu of the Semi-Professional Canadian Major Junior League, the CHL.

Muchalla is a better than a point per game contributor throughout his career (64-117-181 in 161 games) in what is possibly the highest talent league available for moving players into NCAA hockey. Muchalla has also shown a steady improvement, upgrading to a full point and a half-per-game player last season, boasting 29 goals and 58 assists in 58 games. He has limited playoff experience, totaling 9 games, but even still boasts 11 points, putting him at higher than a point per game in the post season.

At 5'8" 155 pounds, Muchalla is slightly undersized, but his finesse will be enough to overcome this against all but the best defensive teams. Look for the left-hander to be one of the best in the CCHA during his tenure at NMU. According to SelectsHockey.com, Muchalla is known around the league for his work ethic and dedication to his team and winning.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Injury Update

I'm not a doctor or a member of the training staff so it is quite possible that I will get trumped on this, but let me just say that things are looking promising on the injury front heading into this weekend's three game set. Last weekend the Spruce Kings found themselves up and down on the rollercoaster; on the upside the team picked up their first win but on the downside they found another player being added to the infirmary.

In the preseason, the team lost the services of Trevor Esau before fans even had a chance to really get a good look at the young defenceman. Faiz Khan was another player that the Spruce Kings picked up in the off season, but was unable to be in the opening night lineup. Although Khan did suit up for a game against the Vees in Penticton, the twenty year old forward found that he wasn't 100 percent and required a little more time to fully mend.

In that same game against the Penticton Vees, Riley Spraggs was added to the injury list after a hit in the offensive zone. That list grew to four when Connor Tiechko was hit hard into the wall on a play that resulted in a double minor for hooking and boarding being assessed to the offending Vernon Vipers player.

With four players on the shelf for Saturday's rematch with the Penticton Vees, the affects of the short bench showed themselves as the game wore on. With less than three minutes remaining in that game, the Vees were able to turn a close one-goal game into a two-goal spread and eventually added two empty netters. Things got worse the next day when the Vipers bit back after their 3-1 loss to the Spruce Kings on Friday night.

With that weekend now behind them, the Spruce Kings have taken to the practice ice to prepare for a three game weekend with games against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday, the Surrey Eagles on Saturday and the Silverbacks again on Sunday. Two things jumped out at me when I took in one of those practices; there were no players sitting in the stands and there were no yellow jerseys on the ice. The yellow jersey is often symbolic of a player with an injury that is on the road to recovery but needs to take it easy and have teammates take it easy on them.

Trevor Esau (pictured above) was wearing a black jersey while Faiz Khan wore blue and Connor Teichko was in grey. The other injured player, Riley Spraggs is expected to return to Prince George for the weekend after another doctor's visit. The three players that were on the practicing with the team were going through the full drills and participating at a high level that has left me believing that we will be able to see all of them in action this weekend.