After being down 3-1 in their series against the Surrey Eagles, the Prince George Spruce Kings won three straight games, including a 4-0 win in game seven, to take the series and earn the Mainland Division title.
Two days after their game seven triumph, the Spruce Kings are able to reflect on their accomplishments so far this postseason.
“We were in a game seven and a very similar travel schedule with Chilliwack [in round one],” said Prince George head coach Adam Maglio. “Coming back home for seven in that series, I think our team was prepared because we’ve been there. I thought our guys responded well. We had good energy, we had good legs all night. I was proud of our group.”
“Getting down 3-1 was not how we planned it,” added Spruce Kings captain and Port Moody native Kyle Johnson. “But we always knew that we could push and win three games in a row. We’ve done that a lot of times this year, so that was kind of our mindset going into it and that made it a pretty special series”
Game six and seven of the Mainland Division final were played on back-to-back nights, which meant a roughly 750-km, eight-and-a-half hour bus ride in between games, something that the Spruce Kings have experienced throughout the season.
“You just try to get your guys hydrated and good nutrition in them,” said Maglio. “I think our guys do a good job with that and we’re able to get a decent rest on the bus. Surrey was doing the same thing too. It’s not easy playing back-to-back with that road schedule, but we’ve done it all year and our guys have done a good job with it.”
This is the longest playoff run Prince George has been on in Johnson’s tenure with the team and he’s already noticed the increased excitement around town as the team continues its successful season.
“I’m loving that the town’s really getting behind our team,” said the 19-year-old Johnson. “In my time in Prince George, I’ve never seen a crowd like that with the people so into the game and energetic and loud in the arena. It’s been really special.”
“Our fans, all year and all playoffs, have been unbelievable,” said Maglio. “[Sunday] night it was sold out. In our rink, the fans are right on top of you. It was really loud, it was exciting for players.”
The Spruce Kings can now look ahead to the league semifinal and the Powell River Kings who recently beat the Victoria Grizzlies in six games in the Island Division final. Although the teams only met twice this season, a 3-3 tie in October and a 4-2 Prince George win in January, the Spruce Kings are still aware of the challenges that Powell River presents.
“They’ve got some offensive firepower and they play a pretty smart game with a lot of speed,” said Johnson. “Obviously, we’ll get more familiar with them as the series goes on, but we just expect them to be at the top of their game and to be skilled and fast.”
“They have some elite guys that can put the puck in the net,” said Maglio. “I think we’ve got to make sure we’re continuing to play a 200-foot game and our awareness of who’s on the ice is going to be a big part.”
One of those skilled players they are referring to is Powell River leading scorer Carter Turnbull. Johnson is quite familiar with Turnbull after being his teammate with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge for the past two years.
“I got to know Carter pretty well,” said Johnson, who is third on the Spruce Kings in playoff scoring with 10 points in 14 games. “He’s a really good player and a fiery competitor, to say the least. He’ll be a challenge for us this series and I certainly think we’ll have to key in on that.
“It’s fun to play against guys that you’ve played with in the past. It always makes for better competition and just a little extra on the line.”