Spruce Kings open spring camp

(Submitted by Alex Hoegler, BCHL communications)

The Prince George Spruce Kings look at their upcoming spring camp as an important component in addressing last season’s shortcomings and hope it will unearth some players who will help them rebound to playoff contention.

Head coach Chad Van Diemen’s first season behind the bench didn’t go as he had hoped as the team finished fifth in the Mainland Division, with a 14-38-4-2 record. In a division that featured three clubs (Chilliwack, Wenatchee and Langley,) with 30-win seasons, Van Diemen said they need to tighten up on defence and get more balanced scoring. As such, he’ll be looking for certain types of players in camp.

“Skating, hockey IQ and their overall compete levels, how hard they’re working every shift. Those are the biggest three we need to address,” he said. “Looking around in our division where we need to close the gap… We’ve got to be a faster team top-to-bottom and compete; a lot harder to play against every shift.”

The Spruce Kings training camp will consist of six teams that will scrimmage against each other. Returning players Jesse Pomeroy and Braiden Epp along with graduated captain Stephen Penner will be among those on hand to help run the practices. Each team will consist of two goaltenders as the team looks to provide support for incumbent Liam McCloskey.

“Understanding our systems and how we feel we need to play in terms of executing that, goaltending plays a part in that,” Van Diemen said. “We were pretty young in net for a lot of games this year. A year of experience under the belt can help with that.”

Van Diemen acknowledged there are still plenty of openings on the blueline, as the team tries to limit the quality looks they surrendered.

“The amount of grade-A scoring chances we gave up in games has to come way down. So how aggressive we are, how we defend the front of our net, blocking shots, all the little things to help bring the goals against down.”

With plenty of players coming in to help the Spruce Kings fight for a playoff spot in 2016-17, Van Diemen is focusing on all aspects of the game, especially as he tries to find more depth at forward.

“We’ve got to get more offense. I think our power play for sure has to improve,” he said. “Our leading scorer this year was a defenceman (Matthew Stief with 43 points). We need to find depth out of our forward group.”

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