Spruce Kings finish off season with a victory
Concluding their worst campaign in seven years, the Prince George Spruce Kings ended the season on a positive note.
In their final B.C. Hockey League regular-season game until September, the Spruce Kings defeated the Burnaby Express 5-4 at the Coliseum on Saturday. It wrapped up a season which fell short of the team’s expectations, as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
At 18 wins, 37 losses, a tie and four overtime defeats (18-37-1-4), the Spruce Kings finished their year with 41 points. Their Interior Conference rivals, the Williams Lake TimberWolves (10-49-1-0) and Coastal Conference’s Express (18-36-0-6) were the only other teams to fall short of the playoffs in the 17-team league.
The 2009-10 campaign also marks the first season since Ed Dempsey took over coaching duties in 2003-04 that the team has missed the playoffs. Looking back on the Spruce Kings’ 14-year BCHL history, the 41-point total is as low as 2002-03 (19-38-0-3) and higher than only the 40 points in 2001-02 (16-36-0-8). The team joined the league in 1996.
The Spruce Kings finished their season five points behind the Merritt Centennials (22-36-0-2), who grabbed the seventh and final playoff spot in the nine-team Interior Conference. At 51-6-0-3, the Vernon Vipers won the division and league title. They’ll play the lowest-seeded team advancing from the first round in an Interior Conference semi-final series. The Alberni Valley Bulldogs, with a record of 45-12-1-2, receive the first-round bye in the Coastal Conference
Against the Express, 18-year-old Williams Lake product Luke Hannas led the way for the home team with a goal and two assists. Brad Bourke and Kyle Manlow each recorded a goal and an assist. Nick DeSousa and Jeff Earnest also scored for the Spruce KIngs.
Paul De Jersey was the top scorer for Burnaby, collecting two goals and an assist. Brad Reid, with a goal and an assist, and Lane Menage, with two helpers, had two-point games for the Express. Rich Manley scored Burnaby’s other goal.
In goal, Andrew Walsh recorded the victory for the Spruce Kings, turning aside 42 of 46 shots. With 30 saves, Robin Billingham took the defeat at the other end. The Express outshot the Spruce Kings 46-35.
On Friday evening at the Coliseum, the Spruce Kings dropped a 4-3 decision to the Williams Lake TimberWolves. For Williams Lake, the victory snapped a 24-game losing streak. Their previous win was a 4-2 triumph at Burnaby on Dec. 16.
The Spruce Kings have named their award winners for the 2009-10 season. They are: RJay Berra – Craig Dziuaballe Memorial for Outstanding Community Service, Scholastic Player of the Year and Seventh Man; Sammy Muchalla – Scoring Title, Most Dedicated Player and Most Valuable Player; Justin Fillion – Defenceman of the Year; DeSousa – Most Improved Player; Lynden Martell – Rookie of the Year; Zac Rasmussen – Most Inspirational Player; and Edna Stitt – Volunteer of the Year.