Photo credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images
By Jason La Rose, Hockey Canada
BROOKS, Alta. – Nick Poisson and Ben Brar scored 1:45 apart in the second period, Logan Neaton made 32 saves and the Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL) held off the Oakville Blades (OJHL) 2-1 on Saturday night to move into the championship game at the 2019 National Junior A Championship.D
The Spruce Kings will face a familiar foe – they will take on the host Brooks Bandits (AJHL) in the final on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. TSN3), looking for the first national title in franchise history.
The game will be the eighth between Prince George and Brooks in just over three weeks, including the six-game Doyle Cup series (won 4-2 by the Spruce Kings) and the Bandits’ 3-1 prelim win Thursday.
Dylan Anhorn chipped in with a pair of assists for the Spruce Kings, who needed far less time to win this semifinal than they did their first – Prince George downed the Camrose Kodiaks in five overtimes in 2007 in the longest game in tournament history.
Goaltending was the story through the first half of the game; Neaton and Oakville counterpart Will Barber went save for save for almost 36 minutes, although Barber was the busier of the two – he turned aside 24 shots in the first two periods, while Neaton stopped 14.
Poisson finally broke through 16 minutes into the middle frame, grabbing a loose puck after a missed pokecheck by Barber and sweeping a backhand into an open net.
Kyle Lewis answered just 63 seconds later, finishing a pretty set-up from Harrison Israels, but Brar needed only 42 seconds to drive to the net off the left wing and tuck the game-winner around Barber.
The Blades controlled the third period, outshooting Prince George 18-6, but Neaton – who was named Top Goaltender on Friday – was there time and time again to backstop the Spruce Kings to the final.
The best chance for the Central Region champions came on a five-minute power play early in the final stanza, but Prince George held its ground and maintained its one-goal advantage.
The busy final 20 minutes helped Oakville finish with a narrow 33-32 edge in shots on goal.