Maybe it was his familiarity with the short ice surface. maybe it was the fact he hadnt played a game in that rink since Sept. 23, the week before he suffered a concussion that kept him out of the Prince George Spruce Kings lineup for two weeks.
Or maybe it was just because Brent Lashuk is one fine hockey player, as the Merritt Centennials were reminded Thursday night at the Coliseum. Lashuk showed what a difference-maker he can be with three assists to lift the Spruce Kings to a 7-4 victory.
At six-foot-two, 210 pounds, Lashuk casts a large shadow and his presence at left wing opened up a lot of ice for his teammates, playing on a line with Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke. Staley responded with three goals, one in the first period, one on a third-period penalty shot and he was the last King to touch the puck on the goal credited to Lashuk late in the second period.
The Spruce Kings broke out of the gate with four unanswered goals in the first period. Staley got it started on a Kings power play, fed in the slot by Lashuk, in his fourth game back after being sidelined for five.
Then it was Sean Landreys turn to add to goalie Russell Sandersons misery. Landrey, the tallest and widest Spruce King at six-foot-four, 230 pounds, picked up his first goal of the season with a slap shot from above the rings, after his original shot had been blocked.
With 13:58 gone in the period, Lashuk broke into Cents territory on a 2-on-1 with Justin Rai and with a flick of the wrist laced the puck over to Rai, who had an easy tap-in. Skylar Pacheco made it 4-0, banging in a chunky rebound caused by Brogan OBriens hard shot.
The Cents had plenty of pushback after the second goal, but Jesse Jenks was not in a giving mood, tuning up for a trip to Calgary this weekend as one of six goalies trying out for the Canada West squad for the World Junior A Challenge tournament in November. Jenks was by far the busier goalie, making 38 saves as the Kings were outshot 42-25.
Merritt swapped goalies to start the second, bringing Devin Kero into the game. The Cents finally got to Jenks with a power-play goal after Kings got caught with too many players on the ice.
Shane Paulson caught the low corner of the net with his wrist shot 8:57 into the second period. Scott Patterson connected on another Merritt power play to cut the lead in half at 16:17, but Lashuk had an answer for that, setting up Luedtke behind the net, who then fed Staley, 11 seconds before the intermission.
The Cents made it interesting early in the third, peppering the Kings net with 19 shots. They scored on a Dylan Bowen point shot after a face-off win and Gavin Gold got another one for Merritt late in period, but Karan Toor capped the scoring into an empty net.