It's a bit late but the Prince George Spruce Kings will ring in 2013 on home ice this weekend.
The Spruce Kings (19-12-1-6) will play their first B.C. Hockey League games at the Coliseum in more than a month when they host the Chilliwack Chiefs (24-12-1-1) tonight and Saturday, 7 p.m. The last time the Spruce Kings played on home ice they shutout the Surrey Eagles 2-0 on Dec. 16.
Spruce Kings assistant coach Brad Rihela said it'll be nice to play in front of the home fans after three playing three straight weekends, including a three-game trip before Christmas.
"Our fans are phenomenal," said Rihela. "We're hoping for a sellout. You can tell with the mood in the dressing room our guys are happy to be home and ready to get back at it."
The Spruce Kings will try to erase the memory of the Chiefs last visit to Prince George when they fell 6-0 and 2-0 to the second-place team in the Mainland division while ending Mitch Gillam's shutout streak in Prince George. The two teams met last Friday in Chilliwack where the Chief were able to emerge victorious 3-2 in overtime.
In addition to the two-game weekend at the Coliseum the Chiefs and Spruce Kings will face off in a rare midweek tilt Wednesday in the Fraser Valley. For the Spruce Kings, the three games will give them an opportunity to show they can join the race along with the Chiefs and Surrey Eagles (24-10-1-3) for first place in the Mainland division.
"It's something you have to strive for," said Rihela. "Our division is especially tight that you need every point you can get and you can't take anything for granted. We're going to finish as high as we possibly can."
The Spruce Kings are relatively healthy, with only a few players dealing with minor bumps and bruises, said Rihela, heading into the triple-header with the Chiefs. The Spruce Kings play seven of their next eight games in Prince George.
After struggling to score goals the Spruce Kings offence came alive last weekend when they potted nine, including seven in a win over the Coquitlam Express. Coincidentally, forward Lyndon Martell was back in the Spruce Kings' lineup after recovering from post-concussion syndrome and notched three goals and two assists.
"He definitely helps in the offence department," said Rihela.
The addition of former Cariboo Cougar David Stephens before the Jan. 10 trade deadline also contributed to the Spruce Kings confidence on offence.
"He had a great weekend set after not playing in a long time," said Rihela about signing Stephens as a free agent. "He's brought some real stability to our top six."
Note: Spruce Kings defenceman Kevin Guiltinan was ranked by NHL Central Scouting 141st among skaters in the midseason rankings for the 2013 entry draft, placing him fifth among BCHL eligible players. "He knows it's just the beginning and there's work to be done," said Rihela. The 17-year-old has a scholarship to Harvard University for the 2014-15 season.