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Poisson boys teaming up for Kings' cause

Now heading into his third B.C. Hockey League season, Ben Poisson is the inspirational leader of the Prince George Spruce Kings.
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Now heading into his third B.C. Hockey League season, Ben Poisson is the inspirational leader of the Prince George Spruce Kings.

He's the guy inside the dressing room to say the right thing at the right time to pick the Kings up and give them a shot of moral courage to do their jobs collectively as hockey players.

On the ice, the 19-year-old centre's actions speak louder than words. He's a wolverine on blades, a skillful two-way centre whose booming shot can strike fear into opposing goaltenders.

Poisson's value as a teammate was felt most by the Kings late last season when they didn't have him around. Seven games before the playoffs began during a game at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena on Feb. 9, he fell at full speed into the end boards chasing down a loose puck, injuring his shoulder and rupturing his spleen.

He avoided surgery but missed 18 playoff games, rejoining his teammates to help finish off Powell River in the Coastal Conference championship. The Kings came close to their ultimate ambition but lost in a five-game final series to the Wenatchee Wild.

While his league title hopes fell short, Poisson did manage to convey his 22-goal, 52-point season into an NCAA scholarship at the University of Maine. The six-foot-one, 205-pound native of Vancouver is destined to became a Black Bear in the 2019-20 season. He's one of 14 returning players on the Spruce Kings and he thinks they have what it takes for another extended playoff run.

"I'm really excited after seeing the last few days of camp - we have a fast team this year and we could probably do something special," said Poisson.

In May, the Spruce Kings confirmed they'd signed Nick Poisson, Ben's 17-year-old brother, for the upcoming season, giving the Kings their first brother combination since local products Sam and Vinny Muchalla played together from 2007-09.

Nick plays a similar style as his brother - he's hard on the puck and has above-average playmaking skills. He doesn't have quite the same velocity as Ben with his shot but he's still growing at five-foot-11, 173 pounds and he's got two years to catch up.

"I'm excited for both of them having a pretty special year playing together," said Kings head coach Adam Maglio. "Nick was a highly-recruited kid for other programs and they've never been on the same team so it will be neat for them to experience a year together.

"Nick's got really good footspeed for a 17-year-old. Benny is really good thinking inside the box and Nick's similar, he brings creativity to the game. Nick gets goalies moving east to west while Benny, his shot is elite in our league, and he'll blow one by them."

For Ben, the idea of having his only sibling around for the whole season, playing for one of the stronger teams in what rates as the top junior A hockey league in the country, is something he never thought would happen.

"It's fun for sure, we never got a chance to play together just because of our age gap. It's two years so I've always moved on by the time he catches up," said Ben. "It's fun to have that little-brother bond, it's unique. He plays the same way I do. He'll be tenacious and he'll do things right."

Nick, who prefers playing left wing, collected 17 goals and 25 assists for 42 points in 35 games in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League midget prep division.

"I'm a grittier kind of player but at the same time I still have that skill to put the puck in or make that pass," Nick said.

"I feel I'm a good 200-foot player and I think I've become a quicker player that I can beat d-men and really pressure players. I feel the transition will be hard but it will be quick. Right now I'm good because I've got that speed to me and this is a next-level speed league."

Nick played one game for the Spruce Kings at the end of the season as an affiliated player and it was the team's Burnaby Winter Club connections that made his choice to sign with them easier.

His brother and Kings veterans Nolan Welsh, Liam Watson-Brawn and Bradley Cooper are BBW alumni, while rookies Nick Bochen and Tyler Schleppe were Nick's midget teammates in Burnaby last season.

"It just felt like home here," said Nick. "Being with them last year I got a chance to be exposed to the guys and I already felt welcomed into a home environment. I just saw what Adam and P.G. did for Ben and how he became such a great player after he got here. He became a next-level player after he got here and that's what I want to become. Just seeing how great this team was last year, and we want to go back and win the last three games and win the league this year."

Their parents - Julie Chapman and Shawn Poisson - are certainly relieved they get to watch them both playing road games for the Kings close to their Vancouver home in the Mainland Division.

"They'll be seeing lots of us," said Ben.

The Maine connection to the Spruce Kings extends to another brother act - Prince George natives John and Keenan Hopson - who had brilliant junior careers in the BCHL and played together in their last year of college eligibility with the Black Bears, helping Maine reach the Frozen Four in 2006.

So what are the chances Nick might follow in big brother's footsteps to the NCAA?

It's certainly an intriguing possibility.

The Kings continue their preseason tonight in Merritt against the Cents, who beat Prince George 3-2 in overtime Wednesday night at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.

They start their 23rd BCHL season next Friday at home against Chilliwack.

Jack Hooey, a 20-year-old forward from Connecticut who has been recruited to Colgate University, attended the Kings' camp but re-aggravated an injury from last season and flew back home on Saturday. He played high school hockey in Connecticut last season for Choate Rosemary Hall.