Dave Dupas isn't about to incur an arm injury while giving pats on the back.
True, his Prince George Spruce Kings are one of the top teams in the B.C. Hockey League and are coming off a win against the defending national champs. And yes, he's happy about those accomplishments. But, the head coach is still waiting for the club to show him a level of persistence that hasn't yet been evident.
"There are always concerns, especially early in the season," Dupas said. "We're up and down. We have to find some consistency and there are a lot of rookies on this team that have to figure out that you have to come to work every single night. Our work ethic shouldn't change game-to-game. It's something that we're working on and hopefully we take care of that quite early in the season."
Tonight at the Coliseum (7:30 start), the Spruce Kings will put their 3-0-0-1 record on the line against the Merritt Centennials. In their previous outing, last Saturday on home ice, the Kings handed the reigning RBC Cup champion Penticton Vees a 4-2 loss. But, the night before that, Prince George surrendered a two-goal lead against the relatively weak Trail Smoke Eaters and fell 4-3 in overtime.
The Spruce Kings have already seen the Centennials once this season, on opening day at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack. In the game, the Kings scored three times in the third period and left the rink as 4-1 victors. Merritt, however, is known for its gritty, hard-working style of play and Dupas isn't expecting anything different from the Cents tonight.
"They play tough," he said. "Every shift, every game, it's the same team. The shots were even down there [in Chilliwack]. I think it was a pretty even game, we just capitalized on our chances a little better than they did."
The Centennials, who knocked the Kings out of the playoffs last spring, have posted a 2-1-0-0 record so far this season. Offensively, they have been led by rookie defenceman Dane Birks. In Merritt's three games, the 17-year-old Williams Lake product has two goals (both on the power play) and four assists.
Mitch Eden, also a blueliner, is the Kings' leading point-getter thus far. Eden, a 17-year-old from Bracebridge, Ont., has one goal and five assists. But the Kings have shown depth, as 10 players have three or more points heading into the tilt with the Cents.
In goal, the undefeated Kirk Thompson will get the start for the Spruce Kings.
"He's been playing great for us," Dupas said. "He's 3-0 and has kept us in all the games. He has made some big saves at some real crucial times to get us these points."
After tonight's game, the Spruce Kings will play six-straight on the road, beginning with a Sept. 28 stop in Vernon. The Kings won't be back on Coliseum ice until Oct. 12 when they host Powell River.
n The Spruce Kings have added former Prince George Cougars play-by-play man Ron St. Clair to their broadcast crew. St. Clair will join Peter James, Todd Doherty and Ron Gallo in bringing the action to fans via FastHockey.com pay-per-view and 93.1 CFIS-FM.