In a season that, from a team aspect, has clearly fallen short of expectations, Nick Poisson rose to the top of the Prince George Spruce Kings' class of 2019-20.
In his last season before he moves on to the NCAA with Providence College in Rhode Island, the 18-year-old from Vancouver has had a standout season and was recognized for it Sunday at the Kings awards banquet.
Poisson was selected as the most valuable player after leading the Kings in scoring. The second-year left winger averaged nearly a point per game, finishing with 21 goals and 26 assists for 47 points in 49 games.
He represented the Spruce Kings at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge playing for Team Canada West in Dawson Creek in November and was also selected for the CJHL Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ont., in January.
Poisson is also the Mainland Division candidate for the BCHL's Bob Fenton Memorial Trophy which goes to the league's most sportsmanlike player.
Other Spruce Kings award winners were: Top defenceman - Mason Waite, Nick Bochen; Rookie of the year - Fin Williams; Most improved - Corey Cunningham, Waite; Most inspirational - Colton Cameron, Kolton Cousins; Off-ice fitness - Carter Cochrane, Bochen, Williams; Plus-minus award - Cameron; Fan favourite - Will Kushniryk; Scholastic award - Cameron; Outstanding community service - Jett Alexander; Most dedicated player - Williams, Cochrane.
The Kings finished the regular season on a positive note, pushing the league-leading Coquitlam Express to the limit in two games at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena. The Kings lost 4-2 on Friday and 4-3 in a shootout in the rematch Saturday.
In Saturday's game, Waite forced overtime when he scored his seventh of the season with 1:12 left on the clock. Former Spruce Kings Ethan O'Rourke scored the deciding goal in the shootout after teammate Will Margel also scored on Kings goalie Jett Alexander. Haydn Delorme beat Joe Howe for the lone shootout goal for Prince George.
Cunningham made it a 3-2 game with five minutes left in the third period. Delorme had the other Kings goal. Greg Lapointe, Noah De La Durantaye and Danny Pearson were the Express goalscorers. Coquitlam finished with a league-best 47-9-1-1-0 record.
The Spruce Kings open a best-of-seven playoff series against the Trail Smoke Eaters Friday night in Trail, with Game 2 to follow Saturday. The series switches to Prince George for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Tuesday at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena. If a fifth game is needed it would played Thursday at RMCA. Games 6 and 7, if needed, are scheduled for Trail on Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8.
The Express will face the fourth-place Langley Rivermen in the first round, while in the other Interior Division series, third-ranked Surrey opens against second-place Chilliwack. In the Island Division, the first-place Nanaimo Clippers host Alberni Valley and the and the Cowichan Valley Capitals take on Powell River.
The Penticton Vees finished 13 points ahead of second-place Trail to claim the Interior Division title and will host the West Kelowna Warriors in Round 1. Victoria, the fifth-place team on the Island, crosses over to play the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. In another Interior matchup the Vernon Vipers head south to begin the playoffs in Wenatchee.
All series start Friday except the West Kelowna-Penticton series, which starts Thursday, and the West Kelowna-Wenatchee series, which gets underway Saturday.