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PHOTOS: Prince George Spruce Kings are 2019 Doyle Cup champions

‘Kings win three straight to down Brooks Bandits in regional championship

More hardware for the trophy case.

The Prince George Spruce Kings have won the 2019 Doyle Cup after defeating the Alberta League-champion and National Tournament-host Brooks Bandits 4-2 in the series with a 4-2 Game Six victory Saturday night (May 4).

This is the first regional title for Prince George in their first-ever appearance.

After being down 1-2 in the best-of-seven contest, the ‘Kings won three straight games all on home ice at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (RMCA).

It was the same scenario in the game tonight as the home team was down 2-1 going into the final period of play, but they pulled off the comeback by scoring three goals within a 10-minute span.

“It’s been a very long time,” said Spruce Kings General Manager Mike Hawes to PrinceGeorgeMatters after raising the Doyle Cup before a sold-out crowd of 2,112 screaming fans. “I’ve been here for a lot of years and we’ve made it work to get the program to where it is and I’m just happy for the group. It takes a lot of people putting in a lot of hard work over the years to get us here, and you know what, we’re not done yet.”

Hawes has been in his position with the team for 15 years, and despite all the cliche answers, he believes this team has something special he’s never seen before.

“They’ve been close all year, but you saw it tonight; they just don’t quit. And every game we’ve played this season, there was no quit, which we saw tonight once again. We just wore them down and took over in the third period, and that’s how we’ve played all year long.”

This is also the first time in Prince George’s history to hoist a trophy in the RMCA, which according to Hawes, means everything to himself, the organization, and, of course, the fans.

“The Spruce Kings have been in Prince George for almost 50 years now and the fans support has been tremendous. You know, we have a bit of a different demographic of people that come to our games, but we can’t thank them enough. The place was rocking the last three games and that was the extra push we needed to get over the top.”

After Prince George gave up the opening goal to Brooks more than three minutes into the first, Lucas Vanroboys stepped up on a loose puck in front of netminder Pierce Charleson to tie the game at 1-1 later in the frame.

“We’re legit and we’re for real,” Vanroboys said to PrinceGeorgeMatters following the victory. “I think we’re one of the best teams in Canada and we’ve shown that the last two months. All we had to do was play our game and take it to them.”

The Bandits found a way to regain the lead in the next stanza at almost the exact same time as they did in the first period, grabbing a 2-1 advantage and keeping it that way for the remainder of the second.

The comeback run began with Ben Brar’s tying marker at 9:55 of the third period completing a tic-tac-toe-like play to find the open cage.

The game-winning 3-2 goal was scored by Chong Min Lee with 4:43 left in regulation, which sent the RMCA crowd into a frenzy.

Having to play defense for the majority of the final moments of Game Six, the Spruce Kings kept their composure and kept the play at their own blue line, allowing Patrick Cozzi to claim the Doyle Cup with an empty-net goal with 20 seconds left for the 4-2 win.

“We knew what we had to do, we weren’t worried, and we just stuck to the process,” said a proud captain in Ben Poisson during the on-ice celebrations. “We knew we may not get the [third period] tying goal early, we would've got it later and we did just that and we kept on working from there.”

Goaltender Logan Neaton stopped 22 of 24 shots from the Bandits for his 20th win out of 23 (consecutive) post-season starts from the Spruce Kings.

Celebrations ensued on the ice by the entire team, the volunteers, the families, the billets, and even some of the loyal fans.

Poisson, who’s played in the red, white, and blue sweater for four seasons, says it’s been a lot of fun to be part of the Prince George organizations, and with this team in particular.

“I think we’re the tightest team in the [B.C. Hockey] league. I mean, I don’t know any team that’s tighter than us. On our days off we’re always together, we’re always at the rink together; this is an awesome group we have.”

The Spruce Kings will officially remain undefeated in their own barn for 2019 up until the next season starts in September.

That’s 20 wins in a row since Jan. 11, including 12 straight in the 2018-19 playoffs.

Brooks suffered a third straight loss with the Spruce Kings’ Doyle Cup clincher, the first time they’ve recorded such a setback all season long.

The Bandits finished 57-3 in the Alberta League regular season, which included winning all 30 home games.

Next up, the 2019 National Junior ‘A’ Championship in Brooks, Alberta from May 11 to 19.