And the ‘Kings … are the Kings!
The Prince George Spruce Kings defeated the Vernon Vipers 3-1 in Game Four of the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) Championship to win the first Fred Page Cup in team history since joining in 1996.
They do so in convincing fashion, sweeping their third straight 2018-19 playoff series 4-0; they eliminated Chilliwack and Victoria in four consecutive games in their respective rounds.
This is redemption for Prince George after losing the final in five games last year to the Wenatchee Wild.
With the victory, the Spruce Kings also earned a spot in the 2019 National Junior ‘A’ Hockey Championships in Alberta.
On Tuesday night (April 18), the tournament-host Brooks Bandits clinched the Alberta League title, which meant the winner of the BCHL would get an automatic invite.
Prince George won 16 of 17 playoff contests this year, 13 straight en route to hoisting the Fred Page Cup this evening (April 17).
Goaltender Logan Neaton was also 16 for 17 as he started in every single game in the post-season, making 18 saves on 19 shots from Vernon in the Cup-clinching contest while on the road.
Three of the four goals scored tonight came on the power-play, two from the Spruce Kings and one from the Vipers.
Nolan Welsh got things going for the visitors by scoring his fourth of the playoffs from Layton Ahac and Max Coyle, leaving the scoreboard reading 1-0 after the opening frame.
Captain Ben Poisson followed in the second stanza with his team-leading 13th marker of the post-season, also on a man-advantage, from Coyle, his second of a two-point performance, and Patrick Cozzi.
Prince George led 2-0 with 20 minutes to glory, but not without a scare from the desperate Vernon Vipers.
The home team managed to break Neaton’s possible shutout on a power-play of their own, courtesy of Teddy Wooding with 7:18 left to go.
After Vernon called a timeout and pulled their netminder for the extra attacker, Cozzi took charge of an open opportunity and potted an empty-netter to seal the 3-1 Game Four victory and the BCHL banner.
League Commissioner Chris Hebb, in his first full season in the top chair, handed Poisson the trophy in a special ceremony after all the players and coaches received their gold medals from B.C. Hockey.
The Spruce Kings will be travelling home with the Fred Page Cup on the bus and will arrive at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (RMCA) at a to-be-determined time.
Prince George will now play in the Doyle Cup starting Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27 in Brooks, Alberta.
That piece of hardware is awarded to the winner of the BC-Alberta Junior ‘A’ hockey regional championship, which the Wenatchee Wild claimed last year before qualifying for nationals in Chilliwack.
Depending on how the first two games of the best-of-seven series pan out, local fans will get to see at least two more games at the RMCA before the 'Kings head off for Nationals.
If a team sweeps the first two games, Games Three, Four, and Five through Seven if necessary, will be played in Prince George, which would start Tuesday, April 30.
If they split the first two games, Game Three will be in Brooks and then the two teams will travel back to Prince George for Game Four and Five through Seven, if necessary, starting May 1.
BREAKING: @SpruceKings win 1st BCHL Fred Page Cup in team history & are off to the @HC_NJAC 🏆 The 2019 champions accomplished this by sweeping their 3rd straight playoff series, 4-0 over Vernon 👑 | #CityOfPG @GoBCHL @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/IH4cnFWSit— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) April 18, 2019