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PHOTOS: Prince George Spruce Kings sweep Chilliwack, advance to Coastal Championship

‘Kings defend castle 3-1 in Game Four against regular season-champion Chiefs

Oh how sweep it is!

The Prince George Spruce Kings had to hang on for a little bit near the end of Game Four, but they were able to stop the Chilliwack Chiefs’ playoff run Tuesday night (March 19) on home ice with a 3-1 victory and win the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) Mainland Finals series, 4-0.

It’s the second straight divisional playoff title for the ‘Kings and another appearance in the Coastal Conference Championship, and they did it five games faster than last year.

“We did a good job at counteracting their systems and we executed it almost perfectly,” said Forward Lucas Vanroboys, who also credits the sweep to his coaching staff. “We knew what to expect from the what the season showed, but our coaches pre-scouted them real hard and it paid off.”

Prince George didn’t waste time at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (RMCA), electrifying the 1,850 fans by scoring 23 seconds into the contest on a shot from the point by defenceman Max Coyle.

The Spruce Kings would enjoy a 2-0 lead after the first period; Chong Min Lee potted the eventual game-winner at the 12:58 mark before the intermission buzzer.

In the following 20 minutes of play, tensions grew extensively between both clubs as Chilliwack became desperate to keep their season alive, but the home team pushed on through and doubled the middle frame shots, 12-6.

Chiefs’ Brett Rylance capitalized on an opportunity, grabbing a loose puck while shorthanded in the third period and lighting the lamp that cut the lead to 2-1 with 10 minutes left.

A timeout was called by the visitors late in regulation to try and tie it up.

“He said to bear down and block shots,” explained Vanroboys about what Head Coach Adam Maglio instructed his squad during the short break. “He believed they were going to pull their goalie, which they did, so we didn’t want to get selfish in shooting for that empty net. Just stick with our systems, play our best, and keep doing what we do best. It helped us run the clock out and got the win.”

The opportunity came knocking in the final 65 seconds for Manz to put the puck in the open cage and seal the 3-1 in and bring the crowd to their feet in relief.

Though he was robbed of a third shutout in four games, Spruce Kings goaltender Logan Neaton played his way to an eighth playoff win in making 15 saves on just 16 shots from Chilliwack.

Chiefs’ netminder Daniel Chenard was better Tuesday, stopping critical shots through the night and keeping the reigning National champions in play; he posted 34 saves on 36 shots.

Patrick Cozzi picked up two assists in Game Four and now leads Prince George with seven in the post-season.

He said he wouldn’t be a playmaker if it wasn’t for his linemates.

“I play with two great players in Dustin Manz and Ben Brar. They’re two natural goal-scorers, so that helps me in getting them the puck. My power-play has been clicking really well too, especially with Max Coyle, so I’m trying to get them the puck as quickly as possible and they’re just scoring. It’s been nice to get a few apples in the playoffs and help the team win.”

Prince George only allowed three goals in the four games against Chilliwack, outscoring their second-round opponents 21-3 collectively.

They also did not allow the Chiefs to get 20 shots or more on net in each game, including less than 10 shots in each third period played.

No matter what happens, the Spruce Kings will have home-ice advantage in the third round of the BCHL playoffs, but they’ll have to wait until as early as the weekend to find out who will be making the trip up Highway 97.

The Island Division Final series is now tied 2-2 after Powell River defeated Victoria Tuesday 3-2 in overtime.

Of course, Prince George is preferring a longer break for more practice and rest ahead of the Coastal Conference Championship, according to Vanroboys.

“We want that series to go to seven games for sure, we really do. We’re a little bit sore, so rest is what we want right now.”

Spruce Kings were in a royal rumble with the Kings last year but beat them in five games to claim the conference banner.

Game Five between Powell River and Victoria is Friday (March 22), while Game Six goes for Saturday (March 23).