The Prince George Spruce Kings finally got the first-period offensive surge they’ve were looking for.
Three goals in the opening 20 minutes of play began another dominant performance at the 2019 National Junior ‘A’ Championship, silencing the bark and resisting the bite of the Portage Terriers with a 5-1 victory Wednesday night (May 15).
The win keeps Prince George’s record at an undefeated 3-0, while also handing the Terriers their fourth straight loss in their last appearance at the tournament.
Goals in the breakout frame started just 55 seconds in, courtesy of defenceman Dylan Anhorn.
Chong Min Lee followed up seven minutes later for his second of the championships until Ben Brar potted one all on his own with less than four minutes left in the frame for the 3-0 lead going into the intermission.
“Obviously they were knocked out of the tournament, but today was still an important game – it was a tune-up game for us,” said Brar in a statement following the contest. “We needed to clean things up and build going into tomorrow against Brooks. We need to have a good start; we’ve struggled with them throughout the tournament. We fixed it today, and tomorrow we need to try and get the crowd out of it early and just play our game.”
.@SpruceKings will have a good playoff-round position at the 2019 @HC_NJAC, improving to 3-0 with a 5-1 win over the @PortageTerriers 👑 On Thursday, they’re up against the tournament’s other undefeated team, the host @BrooksBandits | #CityOfPG @GoBCHL @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/RHybKjYRr6— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) May 16, 2019
Spruce Kings’ Logan Neaton only faced three shots from Portage in the first frame, in which Head coach Adam Maglio decided to give his number-one goaltender a rest, putting in back-up Keenan Rancier for the final 40 minutes.
This was Rancier’s first time protecting the cage since February when he led Prince George to a 4-1 win over Chilliwack in the last game of the 2018-19 regular season.
The Spruce Kings made it a 4-0 advantage on a power-play marker from Nolan Welsh for his first tally of the tournament, keeping it that way after the middle frame.
West Region-champion Portage would get on the board in the third period, but Nick Poisson would lock up the Terriers’ cage for good.
Rancier stopped six of seven shots he faced; that’s 10 total shots from the designated visitors compared to Prince George’s 44.
The 3-0 record for the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) champions is the same as the Brooks Bandits.
Both teams have already punched their ticket to the playoff round, but they will now play each other once again for first place in the Nationals preliminary play with an important decision at stake as whoever claims that spot gets the option of which semi-final they’d rather play in.
That being the first tilt in the afternoon on Saturday (May 18) or the second in the evening and Coach Maglio understands how hungry the championship hosts will be at the other end of the rink.
“We’ve seen Brooks in the Doyle Cup and they’re a very good team so we need to be ready,” he said. “We want to go in choosing what game we’re playing on Saturday, so it’s a big game and we need to focus. You have to take away their time and space; there’s no secret, they’re a really good offensive team. I think we still need to improve our puck management, especially against Brooks’ transition game, so in certain areas, we need to get better with the puck.”
Prince George defeated Brooks in six games to claim the Doyle Cup, including the series clincher on home ice at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (RMCA).
That same gritty, intense, and physical atmosphere will likely be on display once the puck drops tonight (May 16) at 6 p.m. Pacific time.