Powell River takes battle of Kings

Revenge was on the minds of the Powell River Kings for what the Prince George Spruce Kings did to them in April. The teams renewed acquaintances Thursday night for the first time since the Spruce Kings sent Powell River packing with a five-game series defeat in the third round of the B.C. Hockey League playoffs.

On this night, Powell River dominated special teams play, scoring two power-play goals and one while shorthanded to overwhelm the Spruce Kings 5-2 in what has to rate as their worst home performance this season. The opponents certainly made them look bad, clogging the shooting lanes, blocking shots and preventing rebound opportunities around the Powell River net.

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"They came in here and played like a team that got slighted a bit in the playoffs last year and full credit to them for the victory, they were the better team tonight," said Spruce Kings general manager Mike Hawes. "We need to be better. The defence, which is the core of our team, was not good tonight. Our goaltending needs to be better than it was tonight and our forwards didn't generate enough. Our veterans were not good. When our veterans decide they're not going to show up to play, this is the result we're going to get."

With the win, Powell River improved to 7-4-0-0, two points behind the Island Division-leading Victoria Grizzlies. The Spruce Kings dropped to 7-4-0-1 and remained third in the Mainland Division, three points back of the first-place Chilliwack Chiefs.

It didn't take long for the Mainland Division Kings to fall behind the 8-ball. They dug themselves a 2-0 hole after one period, both goals coming on Powell River power plays. Ben Berard was left unguarded in front and got down on one knee to slap in his 10th of the season and Mitchell Williams followed up a few minutes later, batting in a rebound.

Corey Cunningham picked an opportune time to notch his first of the season and the 17-year-old from Prince George did most of the work. He forced a turnover with an aggressive forecheck along the end boards and Chong Min Lee got a shot away that was saved by Mitch Adamyk but the rebound was left for Cunningham, who chipped it high and in five minutes into the second period.

Powell River came into the game as the least-penalized team in the BCHL but got caught on three occasions in the second period bending the rules. The Spruce Kings set up in the Powell River end for those first two power plays but failed to produce any quality shots on goal. The only decent scoring chance came on the third manpower advantage of the period and it wasn't a Prince George player creating it. Josh Coblenz and Christian Buono broke in 2-on-1 with defenceman Layton Ahac the lone Spruce King back. Coblenz waited as Ahac slid to try to break up the play before laying a saucer pass on Buono's stick and he had plenty of net to shoot at behind Logan Neaton to score the shorthanded goal.

"Special teams played a big factor, we were terrible on the power play and gave up a shorthanded goal," said Hawes. "I don't even think we generated many shots on the power play and their power play was good and that was certainly the difference in the game."

The Spruce Kings outshot the visitors 15-6 in the second period but trailed 3-1 after 40 minutes.

Coblenz added to the total 4:43 into the third period, scoring on a rebound two seconds after the Spruce Kings had killed off a penalty to Tyler Schleppe. Patrick Cozzi's rebound effort 13:56 into the third briefly fuelled the Spruce Kings' hopes of a comeback but that's as close it got. The shots ended up 37-22 in the Spruce Kings' favour.

The Kings will be back on home ice Saturday night when they host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in their one and only regular-season visit to Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.

LOOSE PUCKS: Among the crowd of 706 in attendance were scouts from five NHL teams - Boston, New Jersey, Minnesota, Toronto and Anaheim. Ahac, an Ohio State recruit in his second year as a Spruce Kings defenceman, is attracting plenty of interest in advance of next year's NHL draft... Kings defenceman Jason Chu, 17, played his first game for Prince George since being acquired in a trade with the Surrey Eagles two weeks ago... With forwards Sam Kozlowski and Layne Sniher both sick, the Spruce Kings called up right winger John Herrington from the Cariboo Cougars major midget team. The 16-year-old from Hudson's Hope lined up for his first BCHL shift in the second period alongside centre Cozzi and left winger Craig MacDonald... Powell River has added to its depth on defence, signing 20-year-old Ryan Pouliot. The Ottawa native played as a 16-year-old for Powell River before going on to the WHL. He played 175 games in the Dub over four seasons for Red Deer, Kootenay, Swift Current and Vancouver.

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