The Prince George Spruce Kings mixed up a familiar recipe with a familiar result in game three of their first round playoff series vs the Chilliwack Chiefs Monday night.
The Spruce Kings played a tight-to-the-vest game that ended in a 2-1 overtime win, with Patrick Cozzi giving his team a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven set.
The teams have combined to play 190 minutes and 40 seconds in this series so far and they’ve combined for eight goals.
People in Prince George were a little salty this week when your friendly neighbourhood sports writer called their team boring.
I didn’t necessarily mean it as an insult. If you’re going to be boring, be good at it like the Spruce Kings are. So far it’s resulted in the first regular season division title in franchise history, so good for them. No one took away New Jersey’s Stanley Cup rings because they ushered in the dead-puck era of hockey.
That said, PG is an excruciatingly tough team to watch.
In a scoreless first period, Jarod Hodve illustrated why. A puck ended up behind the Chilliwack net, where a Chiefs blueliner was able to retrieve it and hold it while his team completed a full line change. Even then he didn’t have to move it because Hodve, the closest Prince George player, was standing at the blueline, refusing to come in any further.
A couple years ago, the Coquitlam Express tried a similar trick in the playoffs. They did it because they lacked the firepower to keep up with a superior lineup, and Chilliwack coach Jason Tatarnic made a mockery of it. He stationed one man behind the net and one each in the left and right corners. When no Express player ventured below the top of the faceoff circles, the Chiefs passed the puck between themselves until the referees finally had enough and told them to move it up ice.
Tatarnic told me before the playoffs that he wouldn’t be doing that in this series, but boy he must have been tempted a few times when PG dropped everyone back to wait.
The teams traded second period goals, with Chilliwack’s Will Calverley opening the scoring at 6:01.
Corey Andonovski did some good muck work in the left corner, digging a puck out for Harrison Blaisdell, who then slid a pass into the blue paint of Evan DeBrouwer’s goal crease. Calverley was left uncovered with enough time to sneak the puck through the netminder for his second of the post-season.
Prince George came back with a Chays Ruddy goal at 17:06, his first career BCHL goal.
Ruddy’s D partner, Dylan Anhorn, slid the puck cross the blueline to the left point where Ruddy was able to tee up a slap shot rocket that caught the top right corner behind Chenard, who might have been screened.
PG would have had two in the middle frame if not for Chenard, who committed grand theft on Ethan de Jong earlier in the period.
A waist-high shoot-in heading around the boards behind the Chiefs net took a crazy carom off the glass, straight into slot. De Jong was uncovered with an empty net to target, as Chenard had gone behind his cage to collect the dump in. But the fleet footed goalie darted back and flung himself across the goal-mouth as the Spruce King shot, getting his trapper on the puck to keep it out.
The next goal didn’t come until sudden death overtime.
The game went to OT courtesy a massive DeBrouwer save on Calverley with 1:30 remaining in period three, as the Ontario native snaked out his mitt to make a spectacular save on a hot shot from the slot.
Minutes after Chilliwack rang a puck off the crossbar in extra time, Cozzi scored the winner on a solo dash down the right wing. Flying into the Chilliwack zone, the New York native made an inside move then darted outside past Chiefs defenceman Powell Connor. As Connor’s D partner, Jake Gresh, dove across the goal mouth Cozzi put the puck off Chenard’s skate blade and in to end the game.
The three stars were DeBrouwer (first), Blaisell (second) and Chenard (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Adam Berg.
The series resumes tomorrow night with a 7 p.m. start at Prospera Centre.