Home is truly where the heart is.
In the case of the Prince George Spruce Kings, it’s where the beating hearts of thousands of local fans have migrated to in the last two months, and have never left on a disappointing note.
The ‘Kings have conquered their castle seven out of seven times in the 2018-19 playoffs, 15 in a row dating back to Jan. 11, en route to a Mainland Division Final sweep against Chilliwack and a second straight Coastal Conference banner.
In total, they’ve won all but one of their 13 post-season bouts this year; the loss came to the Express in the first-round series.
They’ve been lighting the lamp like crazy when defending the northern capital, recording a combined 29 goals in those home playoff matches, while also allowing just 10 from their opponents (Coquitlam, Chilliwack, Victoria).
The continued success of the Spruce Kings has brought them back to where they were one year ago, the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) Fred Page Cup Finals.
The difference is, Prince George was considered the underdog going into the 2018 Finals as they faced a very skilled, gritty, well-rounded Wenatchee Wild team that went on the smother them in five games for the title.
Also, they didn’t get any series sweeps to get the BCHL Championship series!
In fact, they went to seven games in the opening round against Chilliwack and in the Mainland Division Finals against Surrey where both deciding games were in the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (RMCA).
This year, 11 returning players donned the Spruce Kings’ red, white, and blue in hopes of redeeming themselves after the heart-breaking halt by Wenatchee.
Tonight (April 12), they face an exceptionally talented Vernon team that needed four more games to earn their 18th Fred Page Cup Final appearance in the modern era of the BCHL.
As the Vipers, the franchise has won 11 provincial titles, searching for their first since 2011, and six National Junior ‘A’ championships.
They finished fourth in the Interior Division after regular season play with 63 points (26-21-8-3), 21 points in the overall league standings behind Prince George and defeating Wenatchee in five games to claim the Interior Conference Championship.
The Vipers were led by Captain Jagger Williamson, also a native of Vernon, this post-season with 16 points in 17 games, and is also in his fifth consecutive playoff season with the team.
However, when it comes to playing in the opposing barn in these playoffs, the Vipers are on the winning side six games to two, scoring 20 goals and allowing 19.
It all comes down to this!— BC Hockey League (@GoBCHL) April 10, 2019
The @SpruceKings and @VernonVipers begin their battle on Friday to decide the winner of the Fred Page Cup and this year's Chevrolet #BCHLPlayoffs. pic.twitter.com/M7Jz9w4Ovr
Much like the Spruce Kings, the Vipers are also putting all their chips on an American goaltender in his first BCHL season.
Boston native Aidan Porter has started in all 17 games, has one shutout, maintains a 2.22 goals-against-average (GAA), and posts a .910 save-percentage (SV%) in the 2018-19 post-season.
On the other side, Michigan product Logan Neaton has been on fire for Prince George going back to the start of the calendar year.
He has 12 wins in his 13 starts in his first BCHL playoffs experience, and that includes two shutouts, a 1.47 GAA, and a .936 SV%.
So, will the nine days rest for Prince George be beneficial to them starting the Fred Page Cup Finals on home ice? Will Vernon’s ‘all-in’ mentality break the spirit of the Spruce Kings in their quest for redemption? Will the Vipers’ road experience pay off? Will the RMCA get to maximum capacity (2,112) for the first time in these playoffs?
The 2018-19 BCHL Fred Page Cup Finals opener goes for 7 p.m., with very few standing room places available for fans hoping to get a ticket at the box office ahead of the contest.
PRINCE GEORGE PLAYOFF TOP FIVE
- Ben Poisson = 16 points (10 goals, six assists)
- Patrick Cozzi = 14 points (one goal, 13 assists)
- Nolan Welsh = 13 points (three goals, 10 assists)
- Layton Ahac = 12 points (five goals, seven assists)
- Chong Min Lee = 11 points (three goals, eight assists)
VERNON PLAYOFF TOP FIVE
- Jagger Williamson = 16 points (five goals, 11 assists)
- Jesse Lansdell = 16 points (four goals, 12 assists)
- Matt Kowalski = 13 points (six goals, seven assists)
- Michael Young = 13 points (six goals, seven assists)
- Josh Latta = 12 points (six goals, six assists)