After striking out twice this week in their return to home ice, there’s no joy in Mudville for the Prince George Spruce Kings.
They fell 5-3 Friday to the Chilliwack Chiefs at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, just as they did Thursday in a one-goal loss to their BCHL Mainland Division rivals.
Defensive miscues, a sputtering offence and a few lapses in goaltending judgement doomed the Spruce Kings (11-18-2-3) to their 18th loss in 34 games
Five Chiefs found the back of the Prince George. Brett Willits and Tommy Lyons, on a Chilliwack power play late in the first period, erased the early lead defenceman Mason Waite had given the Kings eight minutes in, scoring on a screened wrist shot while on the power play.
Preston Brodziak connected for the first of his two goals to even the score, 1:03 into the second period, converting another power-play chance, but the Chiefs fired back with two quick goals to break out to a 4-2 lead.
Kyle Penney got down to the goal-line and while spinning on his skates took a whack at a loose puck and it slipped through a sliver on net between the post and leg of Kings goalie Carter Woodside.
Seeing his goalie allow three goals on 12 shots with the game still not half over convinced Kings head coach Alex Evin to replace Woodside with Jett Alexander, who had been yanked in similar fashion around the same point of the game in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Chiefs.
“Our goaltending’s been pretty up-and-down lately,” said Evin. “They’ve obviously played some good games but this weekend I thought there was some stoppable pucks they should have had. They’ve got to be better.”
Brett Rylance notched the winner 50 seconds after Penney scored. It started when Trevor Adams won a footrace with Kings defenceman Evan Orr on a dump-in deep in the Prince George end. Adams backhanded the puck into the slot and an uncovered Rylance buried it.
“It was nice we scored the first one and then we stopped playing the game for the rest of the first period and it’s too bad,” said Evin. “With how we’re giving up some of the goals, we’re not defending hard enough right now. We got outworked in our d-zone. It wasn’t good. Tonight was just not a great performance
“We’re not making timely defensive plays. Starts of periods, ends of periods, we’ve obviously given up way too many goals in those minutes.”
The Kings found it tough sledding in the Chiefs’ zone in the third period and managed just five shots. One of them, a close in blast from Brodziak, went in the net behind Mathieu Caron after Waite let the shot go from the face-off circle.
That goal, Brodziak’s 11th this season, came with 1:45 left on the clock. But the Chiefs did a great job of killing the clock, keeping the Kings in their own zone. Alexander eventually got to the bench for the extra skater but Adams ended all doubts with an empty-netter.
Caron improved his record to 11-4-4. He made 25 saves as is team was outshot 27-25.
“A couple of unlucky bounces on the defensive side of things and we got down early and unfortunately we just weren’t able to claw our way back tonight,” said the 19-year-old Waite, who joined the Kings the summer from the Lloydminster Bobcats (AJHL).
“It’s a tough league and you’ve got to try to stay ahead as much as you can. Unfortunately they were just able to get ahead of us tonight. You’ve got to learn from your failure. There’s a lot of character in that room so I think we’ll bounce back from this in a positive way next week against Coquitlam.”
The Chiefs (16-9-4-2) improved the grip on second place in the Mainland Division. Like the rest of the division, Chiliwack has a long way to go to catch the league-leading Coquitlam Express, who improved to 27-5-0-0 after their 4-1 win Friday over the Smoke Eaters in Trail.
The RMCA crowd will get to see the Express for themselves next weekend when they visit Prince George next Friday and Saturday. The Express won both against the Spruce Kings this season in Coquitlam, 5-1 on Sept. 22 and a 4-3 in a shootout Nov. 6.
“They’re a good team, they play extremely hard, they’re fast, they’re confident and we need to make sure we have a good week of practice,” said Evin.
“We played the pretty well the last time in their rink. We were probably the better team the last 40 minutes and overtime of that game, so there’s positive stuff in our memory against them and we just have to be sure we’re ready for them on Friday.”
LOOSE PUCKS: Kings LW Nick Poisson is in Dawson Creek getting ready for his first game of the World Junior A Hockey Challenge against the United States. Chiefs D Xavier Henry and head coach Brian Maloney are also part of Canada West. Prince George RW Chong Min Lee is still out with a shoulder injury. The Kings were also missing LW Wil Kushniryk, on loan to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL… Next Saturday’s game will be the last home game of 2019 for the Kings and fans are being encouraged to bring donations of wrapped winter clothing to be distributed to people in need by the St. Vincent de Paul Society on Drop the Gloves and Sock It To ‘Em night.