Legendary New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter was in the building Friday on Mohawk Night at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.
Considering all the might Nick Poisson put into slapshot that won it for the Prince George Spruce Kings, there’s a chance maybe even Richter in his prime might not have stopped it.
No radar guns were aimed at Poisson’s howitzer from just outside the ringette line but that puck was moving so fast Langley Rivermen netminder Braedon Fleming barely had time to wave at it as it sailed in over his glove.
It was a timely snipe for the Spruce Kings, coming as it did on a Prince George power play, 17:14 into the third period, in what ended up a 4-2 Kings’ victory.
“They’re always tough to play with, they really dominate the size matchup and it takes a lot for us to play with grit and determination, take a lot of hits and stick through it to the end,” said Poisson, whose two-goal effort sealed his team’s 15th win in 44 games this season, six of which have come at the expense of the Rivermen.
Poisson constantly practices his shot and has been taking a few pointers from his older brother Ben, who captained the Kings team that win last year’s BCHL championship and now plays college hockey at Maine.
“He’s a great role model for me, he’s been a shooter his whole life and that’s something important for me to get tips and tricks from him,” said Poisson. ““My shot has really improved.
“Maybe there was a little frustration on that one. I had probably eight-plus shots tonight and it was good to finally see one go in.”
For Poisson, who played in the CJHL Top Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ont., the two goals left him with a team-leading 17 in 39 games this season. His second of the night into an empty net came with the Kings on the penalty kill.
Backed by a near-sellout crowd of 1,657, the Kings built a 2-0 lead. Fin Williams potted his second goal in two games to open the scoring late in the first period and Haydn Delorme, the grandson of former Vancouver Canucks winger Ron Delorme, found a sliver of net from a razor angle and doubled the count with his first in three games since joining the Kings at the trade deadline.
The Rivermen responded with a two-goal outburst before the second intermission. Tanner Versluis found a tiny pocket of net in the top corner from 30 feet away that got past Kings goalie Carter Woodside. That tied the game 2-2 at 16:04 of the second, two minutes after Jonathan Stein found the net for Langley.
Penalties in the third period came back to haunt the Rivermen. They’d just killed off two straight stick penalties when Jake Livingstone got sent off for high-sticking and he was in the box when Poisson teed off on a pass from Nolan Welsh for the eventual gamewinner.
“That felt good,” said Kings centre Carter Cochrane. “They’re definitely a tough team to play against and we have to match their intensity and I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight. There were a lot of penalties in the game and it was pretty exciting to get on the power play and get one to give us the lead there.”
Carter Woodside made 31 saves for his first win on Prince George ice since joining the Kings in late November from Princeton of the junior B KIJHL and his season record improved to 3-4-0.
“That was good, a bit stressful there,” said Woodside, a native of Asquith, Sask, whose team killed three consecutive penalties to start the second period. “The guys kept it to the outside. They blocked shots and made it easy to see the puck.”
The Kings outshot Langley 34-33.
The teams will meet again Feb. 15-16 in Kitimat in the two-game LNG Road Show.
Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson is hoping his team by then will find a formula that works against the Spruce Kings – one which will result in better special teams play. The Kings went 2-for-8 on the power play while Langley was 0-for-7.
“It’s frustrating, I thought we played a pretty good game,” said Henderson. “I don’t think the players were allowed to decide the outcome, which was frustrating. There were a couple of questionable calls but we have to kill and move on.
“This is a tough rink to play in and I thought we played better than 2-0, but guys chipped away at it and put themselves in a position to win a hockey game after 40 minutes and we have to find a way to close it. I attribute it to ourselves beating ourselves more than anything. They’ve got some pretty opportunistic players and you give them time and space to make plays, they have some shooting threats and we’ve got to get some blocks and be better defensively. ”
LOOSE PUCKS: Richter’s son, Spruce Kings 19-year-old winger Thomas, was held off the scoresheet… The Kings visit Coquitlam for their next game Wednesday at noon, then visit Surrey on Friday and Chilliwack on Saturday. They play six games on the road before returning to RMCA Feb. 5 to face Wenatchee… The fifth-place Spruce Kings (15-24-2-3) are now six points behind the third-place Rivermen (19-21-1-1).