As if they didn’t need any extra motivation in the playoffs, the Prince George Spruce Kings will be fueled by the fact they did not win a single BCHL individual award.

The Spruce Kings finished with the second-best record in the league, just a point behind the Chilliwack Chiefs, yet nobody on their team was good enough to earn one of the nine awards.

Layton Ahac of Prince George was nominated for Top Defenceman (won by James Miller of Penticton) while Logan Neaton of P.G. was the Mainland Division nominee for Top Goalie (won by Jack LaFontaine of Penticton).

The 19-year-old Neaton had more wins (32-30), more shutouts (5-3) and a better goals-against-average (1.92-2.19) than LaFontaine, however, the 20-year-old LaFontaine had a higher save percentage (.923-.914) than Neaton.

In addition, the Spruce Kings had no players on the BCHL first all-star team, although Ahac and Neaton were named to the second-team and defenceman Nick Bochen was chosen to the all-rookie team.

Whether the Spruce Kings deserved a better fate or not regarding the awards, this will be the second straight year they have the city’s junior hockey post-season spotlight to themselves as the P.G. Cougars again failed to qualify.

While the Cougars spend the next couple of weeks playing six games to wrap up their season, the charged-up Spruce Kings take to the ice among the BCHL favourites for meaningful games that begin this weekend.

In the 2017-18 playoffs, the Spruce Kings re-energized their fan base by winning three rounds and eventually
lost the Fred Page Cup final 4-1 to the Wenatchee Wild.

In the 2018-19 post-season, the expectations are even higher for Prince George.

The Spruce Kings set a club record with 39 wins (39-13-1-3) and 84 points.

With Neaton carrying the load, the team had by the best goals-against-average in the league, allowing just over two per game (120 in 58 games).

Next best was Penticton allowing 143.

Offensively, the Spruce Kings scored 181 goals (9th in the league) and had three forwards in the top 25 of scoring (Dustin Manz 4th with 70 points (33 goals), Ben Brar 12th with 61 points (35 goals) and Patrick Cozzi with 58 points (14 goals).

The Spruce Kings had 10 more points (33-17-4), allowed 18 fewer goals (138) and scored 11 more (170) than last season.

Fans have been supportive as the last two home games drew close a total of 3,000 fans (1,403 Saturday in a 4-1 win and 1,571 Friday in a 5-3 victory over Chilliwack).

The Spruce Kings averaged 983 fans per game at the RMCA, up from last year’s average of 888.

The opposition in the first-round is the Coquitlam Express, a team with firepower.

The Express scored 209 goals, tied for 4th most in the league, but they also give up 198, eighth most.

In other words, Coquitlam tallied 28 more goals than Prince George but gave up a whopping 78 more.

Prince George won six of the eight regular-season games between the two teams.

It is never wise to look ahead, but the Spruce Kings and Chiefs would meet in round two should they both advance.

While the Spruce Kings are poised for a big run, the road appears tougher than last year when P.G. beat Chilliwack in seven, Surrey in seven and Powell River in five before falling to Wenatchee.

Goalie Evan DeBrouwer was key to the Spruce Kings winning the Coastal Conference Championship last year.

Neaton will need to be at least equally as sharp this year if Prince George is to play games into April.

March is finally here.

This has been another long cold winter in Prince George.

The Spruce Kings are planning to warm things up in the City starting this weekend when they “Express” themselves.

Coquitlam-Prince George schedule: (Spruce Kings home games in bold)

Game 1 – Friday, March 1st – Coquitlam @ Prince George – 7 PM
Game 2 – Saturday, March 2nd – Coquitlam @ Prince George – 7 PM

Game 3 – Monday, March 4th – Prince George @ Coquitlam – 7:15 PM
Game 4 – Tuesday, March 5th – Prince George @ Coquitlam – 7:15 PM
Game 5 – Thursday, March 7th – Coquitlam @ Prince George – 7 PM (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Saturday, March 9th – Prince George @ Coquitlam – 3 PM (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Monday, March 11th – Coquitlam @ Prince George – 7 PM (If Necessary)

FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

A Police report on charging New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft indicates he visited a prostitute the morning of Jan 20, just prior to the NFC/AFC championship games. So I guess that day it wasn’t just the New Orleans Saints who got screwed.

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

The boyfriend of LPGA star Jessica Korda was arrested for soliciting sex at a Florida spa. No one had any idea he was being groomed to buy an NFL team.

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

Here we go again with the Patriots. First, there was Spygate, then Deflate-gate. Now, we have ‘Hi, Wanna Date-gate’?

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

The CFL is now partnering with Italy’s Football Federation. Great, now we’re going to have place kickers faking being shin hacked and getting run over.

*Comedy writer Tony Chong

Disgruntled Antonio Brown and the Steelers have agreed to part company. In other words, AB’s gone from wide receiver to split end.

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

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Holdout Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell in now a free agent, but it’s uncertain if an NFL team will pay him what he wants. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, “Ask not for whom the Bell toils.”

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT.
He also is the 94.3 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.
Follow him on Twitter: @Hartley_Miller
Listen to him on his weekly podcast: Hartley’s Cat Scan.