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Rheaume carving his own hockey path to the pros

His famous aunt Manon would have been proud of Spruce Kings winger's first-star performance in 6-3 win Friday over visiting Centennials
Kings Nathan Fox celebrates Oct 15 21
Newly-acquired Prince George Spruce Kings winger Nathan Fox celebrates a goal from linemate Austin Fraser during the first period Friday at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena. The Kings went on to defeat the Merritt Centennials 6-3.

Nick Rheaume is doing what he can to make sure his aunt Manon is not the only family member to ever play in the NHL

His two-goal effort Friday night at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena was a deciding factor for the Prince George Spruce Kings in their 6-3 BCHL win over the visiting Merritt Centennials. Rheaume’s big-league power-play blast near the end of the game sealed the deal and sent the crowd of 714 home happy.

“Obviously, our team played well, we capitalized on our chances and had a lot of blocked shots and we found a way to win,” said the 19-year-old Rheaume, a native of Sherbrooke, Que., who whipped a sharp-angle shot on the fly high into the net behind goalie Brayden Melnyk for his second of the game.

“It felt good, it was an amazing pass from Rowan Miller and it felt good to score. It was a big win for the crowd, it was fun. That was my first time playing here in the mix in front of fans and it was the first time for a lot of the guys here. It was an unreal feeling and we’re just happy to get the win for them tonight.”

Rheaume, recruited for next season to play NCAA hockey for UMass-Lowell, is already drawing interest from pro scouts and that will likely continue if he keeps playing like he did in his first-star performance Friday.

Nick’s slightly more famous aunt Manon, a goaltender, played in two NHL preseason games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and 1993 and was a goalie for five seasons in the minor pro ranks. She won two IIHF gold medals playing for Canada’s national women’s team and was an Olympic silver medalist in 1998.

“That’s been my dream since I was young, it’s just fun to see someone from my family go to the NHL and it just pushes me to try to end up playing there one day,” said Rheaume, a six-foot-three, 195-pound right winger. “I feel like my teammates and my linemates are helping me a lot and credit to them, I couldn’t have scored without them tonight.

“She showed with how hard she worked that anything’s possible if you want to really achieve your goals.”

The Kings led 2-0 after 20 minutes. Austin Fraser teed off from the slot after linemate Max Borovinskiy won the draw in the Merritt end to open the scoring. Outshot 20-9 in the opening 20, the Cents leaned on Melnyk to bail them out under steady pressure from the Kings and he did that admirably, but near the end of the period he got caught leaning the wrong way on a shot that appeared to be going wide of the net. Miller was in the slot to deflect the shot his second of the season.

The Cents cut the gap 22 seconds into the second period, a power-play goal from pointman Talon Zakall. Two quick goals from Rheaume and Ty Gagno midway through the period put the Kings ahead 4-1, but the Cents and their efficient power-play antics made it interesting in the third period. First, Jerzy Orchard batted one out of the air into the net behind Aaron Trotter, then Henry Smith put a puck in off the skate of Kings’ defencman Amran Bhabra to make it a one-goal game with less than nine minutes left.

But right after Smith’s goal, the Kings seized the momentum and captain Kolton Cousins jammed in a rebound left in a rush to the goal led by linemate John Herrington and that set the stage for Rheaume to finish it off.

The Cents came into the game 0-for-8 on the power play in their previous two games, having lost to Prince George 8-2 in Merritt a week ago, and it appears the time they spent in practice since them trying to figure out how to play with the extra skater has paid off.

“I was really proud of the kids to be able to try and battle back and dig deep and make it a hockey game,” said first-year head coach Dave Chyzowski. “The Spruce Kings are an exceptional hockey club in our league, they’re well-structured and well-coached, they work really hard and they have a lot of discipline and for our kids to dig down and how some character, I was really proud.

“It’s a process and we’re trying to get the kids to put pucks in areas to get them the best opportunity for success and they did a better job f it tonight and we’ve got to build off of that. They haven’t had that opportunity in the past and we’re getting there bit by it.”

The Kings outshot Merritt 44-26. The win improved the Kings record to 2-1-0-0-0, while Merritt fell to 0-3-0-0-0. The teams meet again at RMCA Saturday at 7 p.m.

LOOSE PUCKS: LW Nathan Fox made his Spruce Kings debut Friday. The 19-year-old from Okotoks, Alta., was acquired this week in a trade for future considerations from the Cranbrook Bucks. He lined up on a line with Borovinskiy and Fraser. Fox played 15 games for the Bucks in the Penticton pod season last spring and collected two goals and three assists. … The Bucks are playing their first full BCHL season, having joined the league as an expansion team in 2020. They’ll play the Kings for the first time in a triple-header at RMCA, Dec. 9-11... The Kings made one other trade this week, shipping 19-year-old defenceman Ian Kern to the Cowichan Valley Capitals for futures. Kern played three exhibition games for Prince George after being acquired him over the summer in a trade from Powell River… The Spruce Kings will be wearing new/old duds when they take to the ice to face the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday, Nov. 5. The retro jerseys they will wear that night at RMCA are a tribute to the 1970’s-era when the Kings played in the Peace-Cariboo Junior Hockey. In that first decade which began with the 1972-73 season the Spruce Kings posted four wining seasons and won two league championships. This is the Kings’ 50th season and throughout the year they will wear five throwback jerseys to celebrate their five decades of junior hockey as part of the 60th anniversary of the BCHL.

 

BCHL Friday summary

Spruce Kings 6 at Centennials 3

First Period

1. Prince George, Fraser 2 (Borovinskiy) 9:24

2. Prince George, Miller 2 (Schives, Rheaume) 17:21

Penalties – PG bench (too many men, served by Fox) 4:01, Carter ME (sashing) 15:23, Schives PG (holding) 18:40.

Second Period

3. Merritt, Zakall 1 (Orchard, Erickson) 0:22 (pp)

4. Prince George, Rheaume 1 (Labelle, Cameron) 11:06

5. Prince George, T.Gagno 2 (Bhabra, Doyle) 12:10

Penalties – Farren ME (tripping) 0:52, T.Gagno PG (holding) 17:28

Third Period

6. Merritt, Orchard 2 (Dewitt, Zakall) 6:18 (pp)

7. Merritt, Smith 1 (Allen, Sorensen) 11:14 (pp)

8. Prince George, Cousins 2 (Herrington, McGregor-Bennett) 12:39

9. Prince George, Rheaume 2 (Miller, Bhabra) 18:42 (pp)

Penalties – Herrington PG (cross-checking) 0:19 Labelle PG (tripping) 5:23, LeFranc PG (high-sticking) 9:25, Labelle PG (interference)15:32, Ward ME (misconduct), Schives PG (misconduct) 17:26.

Shots on goal by

Merritt 9          6          11        -26

Prince George 20        9          15        -44

Goal – Merritt, Melnyk (L,0-2); Prince George, Trotter (W,2-1).

Power plays – ME: 3-6; PG: 2-3.

Attendance – 713.

Referees – Caden Fanshaw, Anthony Maletta; Linesmen – Tyler Garden, Rob Connelly.