Express split keeps Spruce Kings third
The Prince George Spruce Kings played well enough the previous weekend that, with more fortunate bounces, they would’ve defeated the Chilliwack Chiefs.
They were swept by one of the top teams in a pair of B.C. Hockey League games at the Coliseum on Jan. 18 and 19.
Against a weaker opponent on Sunday, they played poorly enough to lose. The Coquitlam Express skated away with a 4-3 overtime victory.
“We took three out of four points here this weekend, but somehow it feels like a disappointing weekend because we just didn’t play the way we should have played,” Prince George Spruce Kings head coach Dave Dupas said on Sunday. “We just didn’t come out with any fire.”
The Spruce Kings return to action on Thursday evening, playing host to the Surrey Eagles. On Friday night they’ll meet the Nanaimo Clippers. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Coliseum.
The Spruce Kings opened a Coliseum doubleheader against the Express with a 5-3 triumph on Saturday evening.
Neither game resembled the last time the teams prior to the weekend, a 7-2 Spruce Kings victory in Coquitlam on Jan. 12. Dupas noted that the Express goaltending was below average when they met in the Lower Mainland.
Adding fuel to the fire, former Spruce King Bradley Ryan scored the overtime goal in Sunday’s contest. Ryan recorded the game winner at 3:09 of the second extra session, with three skaters a side.
Ryan credited teammate Adam Rossignol with setting him up for the winner, centring the puck from the wing.
“He set up in the play and he made a beautiful pass to me and I couldn’t miss.”
The Spruce Kings remain third in the five-team Mainland Division. They sport a record of 20 wins, 15 losses, one tie and seven overtime defeats (20-15-1-7). Sunday’s win improved the Express to 18-25-1-0, three points behind the fourth-place Langley Rivermen (17-18-1-5). The top four teams in the division make the playoffs.
Surrey leads the Mainland Division at 27-11-2-3, three points ahead of Chilliwack (27-14-1-1).
Although the Spruce Kings sit comfortably in third, Dupas stressed the importance of not getting lackadaisical.
“There are teams behind us and they’re not mathematically eliminated. Tonight, if we had won that game, we could’ve put those guys in a huge, huge hole. Now, they still have to win a lot of games to catch us and we have to lose a lot of games. But things happen and when you have an opportunity to bury a team, you’ve got to bury them.”
Justin Georgeson of the Express led all scorers on Sunday with three points (one goal, two assists). Rossignol and Ben Israel also scored for the visitors.
Spruce Kings forward Jake LeBrun scored twice to double his season total. Jace Hennig recorded the other goal.
The Spruce Kings outshot the Express 44-39. Cole Huggins recorded the victory in net, with Liam McLeod taking the loss for the home team.
Despite the score, McLeod was named the first star of the game.
This week marks the only visit to Prince George this season for the Clippers. The teams met Jan. 6 in Nanaimo, the Clippers blanking the Spruce Kings 2-0.
“They’re a tough team. They’re big, they’re fast. We played them in Nanaimo right after Christmas and they gave it to us pretty good there,” Dupas said. “They were running around and they were playing real physical so we’re going to be have to be ready for that here this week.”
Next week, the Spruce Kings will prepare for another Lower Mainland road swing. They play at Surrey on Feb. 8 and Chilliwack on Feb. 9.
The Spruce Kings have only 13 contests left on their 56-game regular-season schedule.