Bailey DePalma showed the Prince George Spruce Kings coaching staff he has the chops to play in the B.C. Hockey League.
The 16-year-old goaltender from Kamloops stood tall in the Spruce Kings' net in the preseason opener Sunday at the Coliseum, a 5-2 loss to the Merritt Centennials. DePalma stopped 20 of 21 pucks in the final 30 minutes of the game, including befuddling the Centennials for most of a four-minute power play. Merritt finally solved the young goalie with 21 seconds left in their man advantage.
Prince George opened the scoring on a slapshot from six-foot-six defenceman Luke Formica, but Merritt responded with two quick goals to take the lead and led 3-1 before the first period was done.
Jake LeBrun pulled the Spruce Kings within two early in the third period when he beat Merritt goalie Jack Burgurat with a wrist shot to the top of the net.
But the four-minute penalty to Braiden Epp killed the Spruce Kings momentum for a comeback.
Alex Murray, a 20-year-old from Burlington, Ont., is expected to be the Spruce Kings top goaltender to start the season, with DePalma and Jenks battling for the backup position.
The Spruce Kings cut nine players off the 37 player roster from training camp before the game and general manager Mike Hawes said the team would be making three or four cuts after the game.
Jesse Jenks played the first half of the game in the Spruce Kings' net and gave up four goals on 19 shots before being replaced by DePalma at 10:42 of the second period. The Centennials started Russell Sanderson (nine saves on 10 shots) and replaced him with Fort St. James' Burguart.
The Centennials out shot the Spruce Kings 42-18 in the game.
Day of rest
Only three players from last year's Spruce Kings team, LeBrun, Bryant Christian and Sean Landrey were in the lineup against the Centennials. Defencemen Skylar Pacheco, Mitch Eden and Karan Toor were given the night off as were forwards Jeremiah Luedtke and Chad Staley.
Christian and Landrey both wore an A on their jersey.
Not so Blue
Team Blue won the three-game intra-squad series two games to one, securing their victory over Team White with a 6-3 win Sunday morning. Daniel Tait had two goals for Blue in the victory. After winning Friday's opener 6-4, Blue was defeated 3-1 on Saturday night. Chad Staley opened the scoring for Blue in the second game, but a goal from LeBrun tied the game at the halfway point and gave White the momentum.
The Spruce Kings open the home portion of the regular season Friday, Sept. 13 when the Chilliwack Chiefs return to the Coliseum for the first game of a weekend doubleheader. Game time is 7 p.m. The Chiefs and Spruce Kings played an intense five-game series in the first round of the playoffs last March, which the Chiefs won three games to two.
Spruce Kings season tickets for the 2013-14 season need to be purchased before Sept. 3. Contact Ron Gallo in the team's office or call 250-564-1747 or email spruceki...@shaw.ca for more information.