It took seven tries but the Prince George Spruce Kings finally solved the Chilliwack Chiefs.
The Spruce Kings (22-17-1-7) edged the Chiefs (28-17-1-3) by a 3-1 margin at Prospera Place in Chilliwack on Saturday night, moving within six points of their second-place nemesis in the Mainland division of the B.C. Hockey League.
Kirk Thompson rebounded from an off night in Fridays 5-2 loss in Surrey to the Eagles (29-12-2-4) when he was replaced in the Spruce Kings net midway through the second frame by Liam McLeod after giving up four goals on 13 shots. Against the Chiefs, the 20-year-old backstopped the Kings with 44 saves. (McLeod stopped all 18 shots he faced in relief against the Eagles.)
Bryant Christian, Coltyn Hansen and Mark Begert had a goal in each period for the Spruce Kings while Luke Esposito was the only Chief able to solve Thompson when he tied the game at 1-1 midway through the second.
Mitch Gillam made 24 saves in the Chiefs net. Both teams had almost perfect penalty-kills, with the Chiefs going 0-for-6 with the man-advantage and the Spruce Kings failing to score on three opportunities. The only blemish for the Chiefs was Bergets shorthanded marker with 16 seconds to play that clinched the game for Prince George.
The Spruce Kings have a 1-5-0-1 record against the team formerly known as the Quesnel Millionaires. Both teams have nine games remaining in the regular season including Feb. 24 when the Spruce Kings travel to Chilliwack for the eighth meeting of the season between the clubs.
Chilliwack has already clinched a playoff spot and trails the first-place Eagles by six points. The Spruce Kings can officially clinch a post-season season berth this week when the Langley Rivermen (19-20-1-5) visit the Coliseum if they can nab three points in Thursdays and Fridays (7 p.m.) games.
If the Mainland division wraps up as it sits now, the Spruce Kings would face the Chiefs in a first-round best-of-five playoff. The playoff format is 2-2-1 starting in the higher seed teams rink with off nights between games, except for Games 4 and 5.