So far, so good for the Prince George Spruce Kings.
They improved to 2-0 at the national junior A hockey championship with another dominating defensive display Monday night in Brooks, Alta., suffocating the Ottawa Senators 4-0.
The Kings are getting it done with defence, as they have all season long, and held the Senators to just 12 shots. The two Nicks – Poisson and Bochen – accounted for the first two goals for Prince George. Ben Brar and Dustin Manz also scored and their linemate Patrick Cozzi drew two assists. Dylan Anhorn also finished with two assists.
“I think we just came out really hard, were just building on the success of last game and we’re going to keep building every game,” said Cozzi. “We came out and competed hard and good thing happen when you do that.”
Logan Neaton had a relatively easy night in net while collecting his first shutout of the tournament and ninth this season. Through two games at the tournament he’s allowed just one goal.
“He’s a beast,” said Cozzi, “and he really turned it up starting in playoffs. Our record without him wouldn’t be this good (the Kings are 22-3 in the playoffs). It gives us a lot of confidence to make plays knowing he’s back there to bail us out. He’s unbelievable.”
The win left the Spruce Kings tied atop the five-team standings with the Brooks Bandits, each with 2-0 records.
After a sluggish start for both teams the Kings found their groove and started dictating the play after the media timeout 12 minutes in. Right winger Chong Min Lee took the puck in the corner and played keepaway from a horde of Senators, spinning away from his check then circling behind the net. Lee’s wraparound put the puck right on the stick of linemate Poisson and he had plenty of time to flick his stick and beat goalie Francis Boisvert.
It was the first goal allowed in the tournament by Boisvert, who had a 20-save shutout in the tournament-opener, a 3-0 win over the Portage Terriers.
The Kings lost Ben Poisson a couple minutes later when he got clipped with a stick, which went unpenalized by the officials. The Kings’ captain was left with a cut on his face and had to leave for repairs but did return.
The Sens did get caught a few minutes later when Corey Cunningham was high-sticked by defenceman Blair Battochio while Cunningham stood just off the goalpost with 55 seconds left in the first period. Cunningham was cut above the eye and just seven seconds into the double-minor penalty the Kings won the face-off and Bochen took a pass from defence partner Anhorn just inside the blueline and walked in with high wristshot that caught the corner of the net, with Nolan Welsh providing the screen in front of Boisvert for a 2-0 Kings’ lead.
Brar added to that just 36 seconds into the second period with a one-timer from the face-off circle after a perfect feed from Anhorn while the Kings were on a 5-on-3 power play. Battochio still had 1:12 let on his second penalty for drawing blood on Cunningham with his stick when teams came out for the second period. Before the puck was dropped, Senators head coach Martin Dagenais got into a heated discussion with the officials and was handed a two-minute bench penalty, creating the golden opportunity Brar converted for his first of the tournament
The Kings kept their foot on the throttle and had one of their best chances of the period while killing a double high-sticking issued to Manz. Ben Poisson gained control along the right-side boards and spotted Nolan Welsh all alone behind the defence. Welsh got a hard shot away but it sailed high.
Manz made it a 4-0 game late in the period. Kings defenceman Layton Ahac made a slick play at the blueline to hold the puck in the zone and chipped it log the wall for Cozzi, and he centred the puck into the slot for Manz, who buried it with a wicked backhander. That came just 1:36 before the second intermission.
Ahac saved a goal right after that when Neaton was out of position. Ottawa captain Darcy Walsh tried to score on a wraparound but Ahac got down on one knee in the crease to block the shot.
“In thought we defended a lot better than we did the night prior,” said Kings head coach Adam Maglio. “You defend better when you’re managing the puck a little bit better. We made some adjustments and I thought that was one of our better full 60-minute games in a while.
“Once we killed that first penalty I thought it gave us a bit of momentum. Playing a team that didn’t play the night before you know they’re going to come out hard on you and we just stuck to it.”
It was all Spruce Kings in the third period. They went on to outshoot Ottawa 29-12 in the game. Maglio said the Manz line, which was so potent during the regular season, is back on form, creating scoring chances virtually every shift.
“They’re bringing their A-game here,” said Maglio. “Tournaments like this, every player needs to give their best and they certainly were very good tonight for sure and that’s very positive for the group when they’re going.”
The power play finished 2-for-5, while Ottawa was 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
The Kings will have a day off to prepare for their next game Wednesday night (6 p.m. PT) against the Portage Terriers. The Terriers (0-2) take on the Oakville Blades (0-2) today at 1 p.m. PT. The Senators will face Brooks tonight at 6 p.m. PT. Prince George will wrap up round-robin play Thursday night against the host Bandits.
LOOSE PUCKS: Cunningham and Ben Poisson were taken to the hospital to get stitched up after the game… The Kings will visit Medicine Hat on their off-day today…Ottawa is the only returning team to the national tournament. They have eight returning players from the Senators team that lost in the semifinal round last year to the Chilliwack Chefs. The Chiefs went on to capture the title as the host team, after being eliminated in the first round of the BCHL playoffs by the Spruce Kings in a seven-game series… The Sens have been to the Central Canada Hockey League final the past four seasons… Senators centre Ethan Manderville is the son of former NHL forward Kent Manderville… The Kings opened with a 5-1 win over Oakville on Sunday.
National junior A hockey championship
In Brooks, Alta.
Prince George Spruce Kings 4 Ottawa Junior Senators 0
1. Prince George, N.Poisson 2 (Lee) 13:09
2. Prince George, Bochen 1 (Anhorn, Brar) 19:12
Penalties – PG bench (too many men, served by Donaldson) 8:32, Battochio OTT (double high-sticking) 19:05.
3. Prince George, Brar 1 (Anhorn, Cozzi) 0:36 (pp)
4. Prince George, Manz 1 (Cozzi, Ahac) 18:24
Penalties – OTT bench (unsportsmanlike conduct) 0:00, Manz PG (double high-sticking) 7:52, Pilon OTT (tripping) 11:08.
Penalties – Bays OTT (tripping) 2:51. Bochen PG (cross-checking) 14:45.
Shots on goal by
Prince George10 12 7 -29
Oakville 4 4 4 -12
Goal – Prince George, Neaton (W,2-0); Ottawa, Boisvert (L,1-1)
Power plays – PG: 2-5; OTT: 0-4.
Players of the game: Patrick Cozzi, PG; Owen Cole, OTT.