Even on one leg Jake LeBrun can spark the Prince George Spruce Kings this season.
The 18-year-old sophomore has a nose for the net as he leads the Spruce Kings with seven goals, including notching his first career B.C. Hockey League hat trick in Friday's 4-3 win over the Penticton Vees, limping around the ice all night after suffering a knee injury on his first shift.
"I like scoring goals so it's always nice when that happens," said LeBrun. "I just caught an edge on the ice and just went into the boards funny and I hurt my knee pretty bad. It actually feels better now, I think it was just a bad bruise."
LeBrun missed about five minutes as the trainer was checking him out and then returned to score his fourth, fifth and sixth goals to help hand the Vees their first loss of the season. Saturday, the former BCMML Cariboo Cougars player won the puck in the offensive corner against the Trail Smoke Eaters and skated out to the slot where he potted his team-leading seventh goal to pull the Spruce Kings within a goal at 3-2, unfortunately the three-goal deficit was too much and the Smoke Eaters left Prince George with a 4-2 win.
Spruce Kings centre Bryant Christian and defenceman Skylar Pacheco each have two goals this season, while seven players have scored only once. The line of LeBrun, Brent Lashuk and Christian has combined for 21 of the Spruce Kings 51 points this season.
Scoring is a hardship for the Spruce Kings this season, which makes head coach Dave Dupas grateful to have LeBrun.
"If we don't get some scoring besides Jake LeBrun we're going to have a lot of nights like this," said Dupas about the six-foot-one, 190-pound forward after Saturday's loss. "He's just a big horse that shoots the puck a ton. He's a smart player so he goes to the right spots and when given an opportunity you've seen what he's done, he went bar down tonight on a great shot and he scored three [Friday] night."
Dupas added scoring goals is part of what is expected from LeBrun, but no one, even the winger himself expected to start the season the way he has.
"I was hoping to get 20 goals and 20 assists, so 40 points on the year, but now that I've gotten off to such a good start maybe I'll up the goals a little bit," said LeBrun.
With more confidence in his second season with the Spruce Kings, LeBrun said he is able to carry the puck a lot better now and he's not scared to try things on the ice.
In three losses this season the Spruce Kings (2-3-0-1) have out shot their opponent a combined 120-67, so they're getting chances, but much to Dupas' frustration they're not finding the back of the net. Unlike losses to Cowichan Valley and Chilliwack, Dupas said the loss to Trail was disheartening because the Kings came out flatfooted and didn't start to move their feet until the game was 45 minutes old.
Led by former Spruce King Tyson Witala, the Smoke Eaters built a 2-0 lead over their lacklustre opponent before the game was six minutes old. Witala picked up two helpers, while teammate Brendan Lamont also had two assists. Lamont added a goal to make it 3-0 in the middle frame during a two-man advantage for the Smokies.
Christian got the Spruce Kings on the board midway through the third period and then helped set up LeBrun to pull the home side within a goal at 3-2.
"They're creating a ton of stuff for us right now doing their part, but we have to get some secondary scoring from somebody," said Dupas. "It's not like we haven't been creating chances, because [Jeremiah] Luedtke, [Chad] Staley and [Justin] Rai tonight had glorious chance after glorious chance and it's just not going in to them, hopefully it changes for them and if it does, it'll make us pretty tough to beat."
Another reason the Spruce Kings need scoring from their other lines is because it won't be long before other teams realize to beat them all they need to do is shutdown the top line, if that happens LeBrun, Christian and Lashuk will have less time, less space and less opportunity to create scoring chances.
Other Spruce Kings players need to remember their coach's words dating back to when they were youngsters and they may find the net like LeBrun does.
"Go to the net with your stick on the ice and just bang it in," said LeBrun. "You can't even count how many times coaches have told you that."
Kings notes: Prince George was without forward Cole Todd in Saturday's game as he was serving the first of a two-game suspension for a major penalty (blow to the head) in Friday's game with Penticton... Former Spruce Kings Jujhar Khaira played his first NHL exhibition game for the Edmonton Oilers and picked up an assist in the Oilers 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Ty Rimmer, a former goalie for the Prince George Cougars, played the second half of the game in the Edmonton net and stopped 10-of-11 shots the Canucks threw his way... Next up for he Spruce Kings is a three-game road trip, with games Friday and Sunday in Coquitlam against the Express and Saturday in Chilliwack versus the Chiefs.