Injuries and illnesses are part of the game for hockey teams and the Prince George Spruce Kings, just four games into the season, have already been affected.
They're in Chilliwack to play the Chiefs (1-3-0-0) tonight to start their first roadtrip and they'll do so without winger Corey Cunningham and defencemen Brendan Hill and Cole Leal.
Cunningham is out with the flu and did not board the bus on Thursday. Hill, a Lake Superior State recruit from Michigan, suffered a day-to-day lower-body injury in the first period of Saturday's game against the Penticton Vees when he fell into the boards after a shoulder-on-shoulder hit with Vees captain David Silye.
Leal, another first-year defenceman, is nursing a high-ankle sprain he hurt two weeks ago in the season-opener against Surrey. He's expected to be out at least two more weeks.
The good news is the Kings will have Nick Bochen back to health for the game in Chilliwack. An undisclosed injury limited the University of Michigan recruit to just power-play duty in their 4-3 overtime loss to Penticton Saturday at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena but he drew an assist on Chong Min Lee's tying goal late in the game with goalie Jack McGovern on the bench.
Defenceman Sol Seibel, a 20-year-old acquired in an August future considerations trade with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, left the Kings after just one game and has returned to his home in Kamloops.
"He left the team and has decided not to play hockey," said Kings head coach Alex Evin.
Hill and Leal on the shelf and Seibel gone, affiliated player Brendan Wang, 17, got the call from the Burnaby Winter Club midget prep team to join the Kings on the road.
The defending B.C. Hockey League champion Spruce Kings (1-1-2-0) left the ice Saturday disappointed with their loss to the high-flying Vees (4-0-0-0) but feeling satisfied with how well they contained their opponents on the weekend, which started with a 6-1 win over the Victoria Grizzlies.
"We got three of four points against two good teams," said Evin.
For most of the Penticton game they were down to just four defencemen, including rookies Amran Bhabra, 16, and 17-year-old Colton Cameron.
"We played really well against Penticton and held them to two shots in the third period and overtime and they scored on both of them," said Evin. "We outshot them 18-2 from the third period on and I don't think too many teams will do that."
McGovern, 17, in his first career BCHL start, made 14 saves in the loss to Penticton and Evin liked what he saw out of the Waterdown, Ont., native.
"I wanted him to play one of our first four games and he did quite well," said Evin. "We didn't win but we gave up two shorthanded goals and the chances are not ones we'd blame on our goaltender. He deserved to be in there."
The Kings move on to Langley to face the Rivermen Saturday night (7:15 p.m. start), then play the Express in Coquitlam on Sunday (3 p.m.). This is the Kings' only three-games-in-three-days roadtrip in 2019-20. Last season they had eight.
Game time in Chilliwack tonight is 7 p.m.
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