One year removed from a dream championship season, the Prince George Spruce Kings enter the 2020 BCHL playoffs as a massive underdog but with no pressure and no expectations.

Based on their play from the regular season the Trail Smoke Eaters should either sweep the Spruce Kings or win the best of seven in no more than five games.

The Spruce Kings are coming off two consecutive gigantic playoff runs.

In 2018, PG reached the league final and in 2019 they took it a step further capturing the Fred Page (BCHL)
and Doyle (Pacific Region) Cups.

They also reached the final (a 4-3 loss to host Brooks) of the National Junior A Championship, which will again be known as the Centennial Cup this year.

The Spruce Kings went from first to worst in the Mainland Division in a transition season where they only have five players (forwards Corey Cunningham, Nolan Welsh, Finlay Williams and Nicholas Poisson plus defenceman Nick Bochen) to suit up against the Smoke Eaters that were in a P.G. uniform this time last year.

Despite placing 15th out of 17 overall, the Spruce Kings were granted a post-season berth because the BCHL is of a belief that all but one team should get a second chance come the new season.

Trail virtually gets every checkmark against Prince George.

Here is a closer look.

The (36-17-2-2-1) Smoke Eaters earned a whopping 33 more points (77-44) than the (18-32-3-5) Spruce Kings.

Trail scored 72 more goals (222-150) and gave up 33 less (203-170) than Prince George.

The Smoke Eaters won all three of the regular-season meetings between the two teams by a combined score of 19-6, winning 3-0 on Sept. 28th, 7-4 on Oct. 5th. and 9-2 on Jan 29th.

The Smoke Eaters have the league’s MVP (Kent Johnson 101 pts, including 41 goals, in 52 GP), Most Sportsmanlike Player (scoring champ Kent Johnson again) and the Rookie of the Year (goalie Logan Terness: .932 SV% – 2.36 GAA).

In addition, Johnson was a league first all-star while Terness was a second all-star and part of the All-Rookie team.

Trail also had a pair of forwards on the second all-star team: Philippe Lapointe ( 55 points in 36 GP) and Owen Ozar (66 points in 44 GP).

The Spruce Kings had none of their players voted for an individual award or all-star although Poisson, their leading scorer, was a runner-up to Johnson for the Most Sportsmanlike Award.

Do the Spruce Kings have a chance at the upset?

Not realistically but last year #16 Cowichan Valley beat #1 Penticton in the first-round even though the Vees had 39 more points (79-40) than the Capitals.

In addition, P.G. will try to embrace an underdog role while playing with house money and virtually no pressure.

I will not go as far to pick the Spruce Kings to win the series but my hunch is if oddsmakers had 5 1/2 as the over-under of how many games the series will go, I would buck the trend and take the over.

Prince George played slightly better on the road than at home although they are not complaining about the 2-3-2 format which will see them at the RMCA Monday, Tuesday and possibly Thursday.

They also had wins against Coquitlam and Penticton on the road, two of the three teams that had more points than Trail.

Intangibles are hard to predict but the Spruce Kings might be one of those sleeper teams and if they wake up it may be difficult to tell which team will be “Smoked.”

The Schedule for the series is as follows:

Game 1 – Friday, February 28th  – Prince George @ Trail – 7 PM
Game 2 – Saturday, February 29th  – Prince George @ Trail – 7 PM
Game 3 – Monday, March 2nd  – Trail @ Prince George – 7 PM
Game 4 – Tuesday, March 3rd  – Trail @ Prince George – 7 PM
Game 5 – Thursday, March 5th  – Trail @ Prince George – 7 PM (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Saturday, March 7th  – Prince George @ Trail – 7 PM (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Sunday, March 8th  – Prince George @ Trail – 7 PM (If Necessary)

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This is season two of Hartley’s Cat-Scan, a weekly podcast show that primarily features the Prince George Cougars.

My guest on the 24th Cat-Scan in year two is former PG Cougars VP of Business Brandi Brodsky.

Brandi discusses a wide range of topics including, being the only female WHL executive at league meetings and her highs, and lows dealing with fans.

She also goes into detail on the dynamics of a family-run franchise.

Her dad Rick Brodsky owned the team and her husband at the time, Dallas Thompson was the Cougars GM.

  

FROM THE QUOTE RACK:  

Nobody knew what was coming, except the Houston Astros.

*Michael Rosenberg of SI.com, on the unpredictability in sports during the decade of the 2010s

With the spectre of opposing pitchers plunking Astros hitters at a record rate over the team’s sign-stealing scandal, just have to ask:
• Will Houston’s promotional giveaways include Astros Replica Jersey Night, sponsored by Target?
• By season’s end, will Houston — not Boston — be laying claim to the title of “Bean Town”?

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/

Former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner has apparently been competing in rodeos for the past few years using the alias Mason Saunders.  No bull.

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

Madison Bumgarner, now with the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been using an alias to participate as a team roper in rodeos. He gives a whole new meaning to a pitcher being sent to the bullpen.

*Comedy writer Jim Barach http://jokesbyjim.blogspot.ca/

A few months ago, former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden had a wide lead that was his to lose for the Democratic nomination for President but is now struggling along in fourth place fighting to stay alive. So when did his campaign manager become Kyle Shanahan?

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

 IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

In honour of the 2020 Tim Horton’s Brier, the top five Beatles curling hits:
5. The Long and Winding Roll;
4. A Guard Day’s Night;
3. You’re Going to Lose That Curl;
2. Hack in the USSR;
1. I Should Have Thrown Better.

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

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Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 the Goat radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca