Just one more win.
That’s all the Prince George Spruce Kings need to put their stamp on the Fred Page Cup as champions of the B.C. Hockey League.
Ben Poisson made sure of that when he scored 12:07 into overtime to finish off a 4-3 victory Tuesday night in Game 3 in Vernon.
Chong Min Lee dug the puck out of the corner to Nick Poisson, whose shot was stopped, but his older brother Ben was there to pop in the rebound on his backhand side for the winner.
The best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Fred Page Cup championship series resumes with Game 4 tonight at Kal Tire Place in Vernon. The Spruce Kings will have a chance to wrap up the first BCHL championship of their 23-year history.
The win was the 12th straight in the playoffs for the Kings, who improved their postseason record to 15-1. They’ve won 23 of their last 25 games dating back to Jan. 25.
Facing the possibility of falling behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven series and trailing by a goal with less than three minutes to play in regulation time the Vipers found a way to tie it. Lane Zablocki circled with the puck out of the corner and from middle of the Kings’ zone he took advantage of a screen in front of Logan Neaton and unleashed a wrist shot to score his second of the game on a wristshot. That came with just 2:20 left in regulation time.
Nick Poisson had given the Kings a 3-2 lead, 2:47 into the third period. He followed up on a point shot from Nick Bochen that changed direction and left a big rebound in front of goalie Aidan Porter. The younger Poisson pounced on the loose puck and lifted a high backhander in over Porter’s shoulder.
The Vipers came within a whisker of tying it up seven minutes into the period on an odd-man rush. Josh Latta sent a cross-crease feed over to linemate Matt Kowalski, who got a hard shot way from close range but couldn’t get the puck past a diving Neaton, his best save of the game. Vernon outshot the Kings 40-24 through three periods.
Neaton made 43 saves in the Spruce Kings nets to improve his playoff record to 15-1. Porter blocked 26 shots as his team outshot the Kings 46-30. Shots were even at six apiece in overtime.
BCHL player of the week Corey Cunningham and Max Coyle also scored for the Spruce Kings. Teddy Wooding and Zablocki each scored in the second period for Vernon.
The Kings were outshot 18-8 in the first period but just like they did Saturday in their 4-1 win in Game 2 in Prince George, they came out of it unscathed with a 1-0 lead. Cunningham, a 17-year-old Prince George native, showed his soft hands when he took a long pass behind enemy lines from defenceman Layton Ahac and finished with a backhand-forehand deke on Porter. That came right after Lucas Vanroboys won the draw in the Vernon end and Nolan Welsh tapped the puck back for Ahac.
For Cunningham it was his fifth of the playoffs. He showed a similar scoring touch with slick moves around the net which netted him a pair of goals in Game 2 of the Coastal Conference championship against the Victoria Grizzlies.
Ahac was listed by NHL Central Scouting this week as the 62nd-ranked North American skater. The 17-year-old’s stock has risen dramatically from the mid-season rankings in January, in which he was ranked 114th.
In the second period the Vipers caught a break when a dump-in puck shot by defenceman Carver Watson hit one of the linesmen and stopped along the right-wing wall for Ben Sanderson, who spotted Vipers centre Wooding breaking for the net and fed a pass over to the Yale recruit, who was a step ahead of his check when he deflected the puck in behind Neaton.
The Kings cashed in their first power play of the game to grab the lead again late in the period. Coyle carried the puck in from the point and double-clutched before letting go a wristshot that found seam into the net.
The Vipers got that one back with 1:31 left in the second period. The Vipers were on the power play when captain Jagger Williamson set up Zablocki for a one-timer from the face-off circle for his third of the playoffs and the teams went into the second intermission tied 2-2.
LOOSE PUCKS: The BCHL winner will play the Alberta Junior Hockey League champion Brooks Bandits in a best-of-seven Doyle Cup series that starts April 29 in Brooks. The Bandits finished off the Saints with a 2-0 victory Tuesday in Spruce Grove to sweep the series 4-0… Brooks will host the national junior A hockey championship, May 11-19… Victoria Grizzlies centre and league MVP Alex Newhook is the highest-ranked draft-eligible BCHL player, listed 13th on the list of North American skaters. Grizzlies winger Alexander Campbell, the BCHL’s rookie of the year, is ranked 43rd. Other NHL-listed BCHL players are: Chilliwack Chiefs F Harrison Blaisdell (80th), Penticton Vees F Massimo Rizzo (84th), Grizzlies D Jeremie Bucheler (114th), Chiefs F Kevin Wall (124th), Grizzlies D Carter Berger (157th), Langley Rivermen F Ethan Leyh (167th) and Vees D Mason Snell (212th).
Fred Page Cup championship
PRINCE GEORGE SPRUCE KINGS VS. VERNON VIPERS
(Spruce Kings lead best-of-seven series 3-0)
Spruce Kings 4 at Vipers 3 (OT)
1. Prince George, Cunningham 5 (Ahac, Welsh) 15:32
Penalty– Lee PG (high-sticking) 16:50.
2. Vernon, Wooding 5 (Sanderson, Watson) 1:42
3. Prince George, Coyle 3 (Ahac) 14:56 (pp)
4. Vernon, Zablocki 2 (Williamson, Lansdell) 18:29 (pp)
Penalties – Coyle PG (roughing), Welsh PG (roughing), Zablocki Ver (roughing), Fuller Ver (roughing) 1:58, Zablocki Ver (tripping) 13:31, Anhorn PG (high-sticking) 17:32.
5. Prince George, N.Poisson 4 (B.Poisson, Bochen) 2:47
6. Vernon, Zablocki 3 (Wooding) 17:40
Penalties – Cozzi PG (tripping), Williamson (unsportsmanlike conduct) 0:29.
7. Prince George, B.Poisson 12 (N.Poisson, Lee) 12:07
Penalties – Coyle PG (roughing), Williamson Ver (roughing) 7:32.
Shots on goal by
Prince George 8 9 7 6 -30
Vernon 18 8 14 6 -46
Goal – Prince George, Neaton (W,15-1); Vernon, Porter (L,12-8);
Power plays – PG: 1-1; Ver: 1-2.
Referees – Trevor Nolan, Troy Paterson; Linesmen – Nick Albinati, Chris VanDeventer.
Attendance – Not available.
Scratches – Prince George: D Liam Watson-Brawn (upper body, day-to-day), F Tyler Schleppe (healthy), F Spencer DenBeste (healthy), F Craig MacDonald (healthy); Vernon: D Will Dow-Kenny (healthy), F Nicholas Cherkowski (healthy), F Elan Bar-Lev-Wise (healthy);
Just one more win.