“As a coach, this is the kind of effort you want to see from your group of hockey players and we’ve got a very special group for sure.”
Those are the words of 32-year-old Adam Maglio, who coached the Prince George Spruce Kings to their first Fred Page Cup title in franchise history last night (April 17) since joining the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) in 1996 and in just his second season as the team’s bench boss.
Maglio spent two years prior to his promotion with the Spruce Kings as an assistant coach under Chad van Diemen, and credits his group of young men for sticking with the process.
“We were really sad after losing last year,” Maglio told PrinceGeorgeMatters, speaking about falling to Wenatchee in the 2018 Final. “Obviously we know you can’t win the championship every single year, but this is definitely one we worked hard for and the fact that we had a lot of returning players this year was a big factor with that.”
Prince George had 11 players from last year join the team once again this season, some in their final season of Junior ‘A’ hockey.
Maglio also gives a stick tap to his coaching staff, including General Manager Mike Hawes and assistant coach Alex Evin for the relationships they’ve been able to cultivate in order to produce their championship-winning hockey club.
“[Mike] Hawes has had a lot of input in how we do things around here and he’s been in the league long enough to understand what it takes to win hockey games,” said Maglio. “With Alex [Evin], you know, he’s been pulling double-duty as an associate coach and a goaltending coach. He’s worked long hours, developed good relationships with the players, and, of course, helping me out when we felt like we could do better. The boys responded to our system in every practice and in games as well, and obviously, that paid off last night.”
The Spruce Kings managed to pull off a dominant run that arguably has never happened before in all of hockey; sweeping three consecutive series and winning 16 of 17 playoff games.
Maglio didn’t have many words to say about how his team was able to pull off an incredible performance, but believes the closeness of the players certainly helped.
“The boys just believed in each other from start to finish. They had good things going on and off the ice, they communicated well, and they supported each other. That’s what you need in order to have success, and I firmly believe in that. If you don’t have a good working relationship with your team, then you’re not in the right mindset. I’m beyond proud of us to showing that.”
Game Four’s victory didn’t come without a brief scare though as Vernon cut the lead to 2-1 with less than eight minutes left to play.
“It’s an uneasy feeling, but we kind of knew that, given where the series stood [3-0 for Prince George], that goal was bound to happen,” explained Coach Maglio. “But then [Patrick] Cozzi scoring the empty net goal obviously gave us a sense of relief. Our guys knew how to respond and that’s what they showed all playoffs long. You know, winning 16 games and having a lot of travel is just a huge grind. We may not have played more games than other teams, but in the end, that helped us prepare better, mentally and physically, and practice more often. Fortunately for us, we got the wins we needed and we got the Cup; again, I couldn’t be more proud.”
The two teams will still face other for the annual best-of-seven Doyle Cup series, which determines the regional winner, which will start in Brooks.
.@SpruceKings are BCHL champs for the 1st time since joining the league in ‘96 🏆 Despite an auto-invite to @HC_NJAC, they’ll still play the best-of-7 regional championship against @BrooksBandits, known as the Doyle Cup | https://t.co/m5EyhvDPVu #CityOfPG @GoBCHL @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/bHEawYwzbD— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) April 18, 2019
Maglio understands that while the next challenge may not necessarily mean anything since the ticket has already been punched, he’s not going to tell his team to stop grinding hard like they have been all season long.
“The real factor is making sure none of our players get badly injured. We want to keep winning, we want to keep playing, and this will help our cause in terms of competing against teams we haven’t faced all year. I think what will really separate us from the rest of the field at Nationals is our will to win. We just got to stick to our game and if we do that, then we’ll have a good tournament.”
Doyle Cup action will be played in both provinces between the Spruce Kings and the Bandits starts next Friday (April 26) and Saturday (April 27) in Alberta for the first two games.
If either team sweeps the first two tilts, Games Three, Four, and Five through Seven if necessary, will be played in Prince George, which would start Tuesday, April 30.
If they split the first two, Game Three will stay in Brooks before shifting to the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (RMCA) in Prince George for Game Four, and Five through Seven if necessary, starting Wednesday, May 1.
The Prince George Spruce Kings will contend for the 2019 National Championship in Brooks beginning May 11.
This is their second appearance at a national tournament in team history and their first in 12 years after hosting the 2007 RBC Cup at the CN Centre.
It was a memorable night for the city of Prince George and the Spruce Kings, as they swept the Vernon Vipers with a 3-1 victory in game four - capturing their first Fred Page Cup championship in franchise history!— BC Hockey League (@GoBCHL) April 18, 2019
Check out the highlights in #BCHLin60! pic.twitter.com/LrKJ1NZLi9