September 2, 2016
by Ted Clarke, Prince George Citizen
While Hurricane Hermine was wreaking havoc Friday on the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Prince George Spruce Kings were on the other side of the continent inflicting major damage on the ice against the Grande Prairie Storm.
They flattened the Storm 10-1 in a junior A hockey preseason game at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.
They did it with blinding speed (an element that was sorely lacking on the team last season), powerful puck pursuit and deadly accuracy in their passes and shots.
The guys who suited up for Storm Friday didn’t know what hit them.
“I’ve been here 12 years and this is without question the fastest team I’ve ever had,” said Spruce Kings general manager Mike Hawes, who liked what he saw from his vantage point in the press box at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.
West Palm Beach, Fla., native Travis Schneider, 18, who played midget hockey last year in Connecticut, led the way with two goals for the home team in his Prince George debut.
The Spruce Kings wasted no time playing rude hosts to the visitors from the Alberta Junior Hockey League, scoring three goals in a 71-second span of the first period.
Ryan Stack, a 16-year-old right winger who will play this season for the Burnaby Winter Club (BWC) prep team, rifled in a behind-the-net feed from BWC alumni Ben Poisson for the opening goal at 12:59.
It would be the first of several scoring plays that featured past and present BWC Academy players.
Braiden Epp followed that with a bar-down shot in behind goalie Lyle St. Denis at 13:02, and Chong Hyun Lee made it a 3-0 count at 14:10, stripping the puck off a Storm defenceman and ripping home a low snap shot.
Before the period ended, Brett Mennear, who joined the Kings in the off-season from the RBC Cup-champion West Kelowna Warriors, lifted a deep-slot backhander in behind a screened St. Denis.
The Kings’ power play went to work in the second period, after Schneider and 16-year-old defenceman Andrew Hunt (who will also play for BWC Prep this year) had each cashed in even-strength chances.
Sophomore centre Kyle Johnson, a Yale University Bulldogs recruit for 2018-19, gave Yale assistant coach Ryan Donald something to talk about after the game, impressing his future boss with a slick move off the side wall he finished with a high shot in behind goalie Arik Weersink.
Schneider followed up with his second of the game with eight seconds left in a two-man Kings’ power play.
Down 8-0 to start the third period, the Storm finally scored, an unassisted effort 42 seconds into the period.
Twenty-year-old Storm veteran Zach McNeill cruised in on the right side and using defenceman Connor Russell as a decoy, lifted a short-side wrister past six-foot-six Kings goalie Stefan Wornig.
Brett Witala, the 19-year-old cousin of Chase and Tyson Witala, got in on the scoring act for Prince George with a third-period power-play goal.
Left winger Ethan de Jong, who led the Burnaby Winter Club Prep team in scoring last season, capped the scoring with a nifty backhander at 19:06.
Shots ended up 52-10 in the Kings’ favour.
The Spruce Kings and Storm will meet again tonight at the rink formerly known as the Prince George Coliseum. Game time is 7 p.m. The Kings topped the Storm 6-5 Wednesday in Grande Prairie.
The Kings start their 22nd B.C. Hockey League season next Friday night at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena against the Merritt Centennials.
© Copyright 2016 Prince George Citizen
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