No matter what happens on Saturday, the Prince George Spruce Kings have guaranteed themselves a shot at winning their B.C. Hockey League pod title.
They did that Friday in a 3-0 victory over the Merritt Centennials in the last of 10 meetings between the teams at Chilliwack Coliseum.
Hunor Torzsok, Christian Buono and Kolton Cousins took care of the offence for the Spruce Kings (13-5-0-1-0), while Jordan Fairlie did his part in the Prince George nets coming up with a 15-save shutout.
The win moved the pod-leading Kings three points ahead of the second-place Chilliwack Chiefs (12-6-0-0-0) and that means the Chiefs will need wins over Merritt on Saturday and the Spruce Kings, in the season-ending game Sunday to claim season bragging rights in the three-team Chilliwack pod.
The Kings scored twice in the opening period to set the tone for their 13th win of the season. Corey Cunningham forced a turnover with an aggressive forecheck deep in the Merritt end and the puck came to Torzsok, one of five Prince George players in their final season of junior hockey, and he found the net with a quick backhander from just outside the crease.
Then at 15:35 of the first, Buono, another member of the Kings’ graduating class, took a pass for Killian McGregor-Bennett in the high slot and whipped a shot in past the blocker of goalie Josh Dias. That goal, the 13th of the season, was the 99th career point for Buono, who joined the Spruce Kings in the off-season from the Cents. His 13 goals leads the Chilliwack pod.
Cousins ended a mini scoring slump with his eighth of the season and first in five games, scoring on a rebound to make it a 3-0 game while the Spruce Kings were on a four-minute power play. Before his brief dry spell, Cousins collected six goals in five games to end the month of April.
The Spruce Kings had the puck on their sticks through much of the game, holding the Cents to just three shots in the first period and five in the second period. Fairlie didn’t get much work while earning his second career BCHL shutout but the 18-year-old rookie from Fort St. John was sharp when he did get tested. One of his best stops was the first shot he faced about three minutes into game when he slid across his crease and got his stick on a tap-in shot from Prince George minor hockey product Alex Ochitwa, set up at close range by linemate Blake Astorino.
The Kings fired 33 shots at Dias. The loss dropped Merritt’s record to 3-16-0-0-0.
LOOSE PUCKS: A post-game video tribute on the big screen at the Coliseum featuring the five senior Spruce Kings. The other Kings heading into their final junior game Sunday are right winger Andrew Seaman and defencemen Tanner Main and Mason Waite. Seaman, a Union College recruit from missed Winnetka, Ill., missed his second game since getting hurt in Monday’s game 3-0 loss to the Chiefs… The Chiefs hold a 5-4 edge over Prince George in the season series, including a 3-2 win in a shootout on April 18…While putting together a 9-1 record against Merritt, the Spruce Kings outscored the Cents by a combined 48-14. Five of those wins were shutouts.