Sports Shorthanded Spruce Kings gut out victory against Vernon SHARE ON: Brendan Pawliw, staff Wednesday, Dec. 5th, 2018 The depleted blueline of the Prince George Spruce Kings needed to come up with a big stand minus three key bodies. In the end, they didn’t disappoint. Even without Layton Ahac (World Junior A Challenge), Dylan Anhorn (injury) and Nick Bochen (World Junior A Challenge), the Spruce Kings found a way to out battle the Vernon Vipers 2-1 Wednesday evening before 735 fans at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena. Once the puck was finally dropped, the game quickly turned into a goaltending clinic between Logan Neaton (Spruce Kings) and Bradley Cooper (Vipers). The game remained scoreless for the opening 40 minutes as Cooper made a number of ten-bell saves in his first game with Vernon after being dealt one week ago by the Spruce Kings for Garrett Worth. After a chippy start to the third period, Dustin Manz finally cracked the goose-egg against his former teammate scoring five-hole with 12:38 remaining. The 19-year-old said it was key for his teammates to continue creating chances even though they knew Cooper would play nearly lights-out. “We started getting some pressure against them up against the half-wall and I tried a couple shots before that to shoot through a screen and I had a little bit of space and time and he ended up being screened and Coop didn’t see it.” The win keeps Prince George (22-8-1-2) atop the Mainland Division standings by a point over the (23-9) Chilliwack Chiefs who won a mid-week punch-up against the Langley Rivermen by a 3-1 score, with three fights and six game misconducts being issued by the officials. “It meant a lot, it shows a lot of character on our team that we can battle through injuries with Ahac being gone to Canada West as well as Bochen so it was really nice to see us get a win with other players getting big minutes,” explained Manz. Speaking of big minutes, 20-year-old blueliner Max Coyle rose to the occasion for the Spruce Kings shutting down the attacking Viper forwards all while collecting the game’s first star. He says some subtle adjustments by the coaching staff made a big difference. “Our main system stayed the same but we kind of dumbed it down and make it a little easier on us so that we didn’t give up the odd-man rushes and we we’re told not pinch as much so that we could keep some of our energy for the rest of the game.” Both rosters looked like mash units as the Spruce Kings were also without Corey Cunningham and Worth due to injury while the Vipers came up north minus Ben Sanderson (injured), Jesse Lansdell (injured), Logan Cash (injured), Carver Watson (injured) as well as star players Jack Judson and Alex Swetlikoff who made the cut for Team Canada West. Some reinforcements were called in for the Wednesday tilt by the Spruce Kings as Brendan Wang from the Burnaby Winter Club was called up to play as the fifth-defenceman while Cariboo Cougars forward John Harrington saw a few shifts. Game five of a seven-game homestand for Prince George continues on Friday at 7PM from the RMCA when the Nanaimo Clippers make their only stop of the regular season in the northern capital.