National Junior A Championship Team Preview: Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL)

Spruce Kings captured BCHLs Fred Page Cup & Doyle Cup Pacific Region titles

CALGARY, Alta. The culmination of the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s 2018-19 campaign will be completed in Brooks, Alta., as they host the Canadian National Junior A Championship, May 11-19, at Centennial Regional Arena.

Here’s a look at the Pacific Region representative, the Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League.

HEAD COACH: Adam Maglio

HOW THEY ARRIVED: A successful regular season saw Prince George finish second overall in the 17-team BCHL standings with a solid 39-13-1-5 record.

Heading into the playoffs, the Spruce Kings first met up with the Coquitlam Express where they needed just five games to take that best-of-seven quarter-final match-up.

Up next were the defending NJAC champion Chilliwack Chiefs, who finished in top spot overall in the BCHL, just one point ahead of Prince George.

However, this highly anticipated series was all Spruce Kings as they went on to sweep Chilliwack and punch their ticket to the semifinals.

There Prince George kept it rolling as they brushed aside the Victoria Grizzlies in four games to advance to the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup finals for a second straight year.

After falling to the Wenatchee Wild in 2018, the Spruce Kings were not to be denied this go around as they did not lose once in the final as they swept perennial BCHL power, the Vernon Vipers, to secure their first-ever league championship.

They also won their final 13 games and were an incredible 16-1 in their league playoffs.

DOYLE CUP: With their initial BCHL crown secured, Prince George then went up against the AJHL title holder and NJAC-host side, the Brooks Bandits, in a best-of-seven Pacific Region final.

As Brooks is hosting this year’s National Jr. A event, both clubs entered the series knowing they were already confirmed to be competing in the NJAC.

After the Bandits dropped Game 1 by a 2-0 count at home, Brooks countered with 3-1 and 4-0 victories at Centennial Regional Arena to go up 2-1 before the scene shifted to Prince George for the remainder of the series.

The friendly confines of Rolling Mix Concrete Arena proved to be just the tonic the Spruce Kings needed as they improved to 12-0 on home ice in the postseason by knocking off the No. 1 CJHL-ranked Bandits in three straight contests by scores of 3-1, 4-1 and 4-2 to claim the Doyle Cup.

FORWARDS: Pacing Prince George during the regular season was forward Dustin Manz, who posted 70 points, including 33 goals, to finish fourth-best in BCHL scoring.

Next was Ben Brar, who collected 61 points while leading the squad with 35 tallies, while Patrick Cozzi was third with 58 points.

Ben Poisson led P.G. in the playoffs on 21 points with his 13 markers pacing all BCHL skaters with Cozzi close by with 19 points.

Cozzi collected six points in the Doyle Cup to propel his side while Poisson had four as did Dylan Anhorn to lead the D-corps.

DEFENCE: Rookie Nick Bochen topped the squad offensively among defencemen with 38 points as the University of Michigan NCAA D-I commit scored eight times and dished out 30 helpers.

Meanwhile touted NHL Draft prospect Layton Ahac was next with 32 points. His 17 postseason points led all league blueliners as did his five goals. He’ll play NCAA hockey on scholarship at Ohio State in the Big 10.

GOALTENDERS: Between the pipes, Logan Neaton, saw the bulk of the workload for Prince George during the year as he went 32-8-5 in 47 appearances while leading all BCHL netminders in goals-against average at 1.92. He also tied for fourth in save percentage at .914 while the UMass-Lowell NCAA D-I commitment was tops in shutouts with five.

Neaton was equally fantastic in the BCHL playoffs going 16-1 with a stingy 1.46 GA% and a .940 save mark, with both areas leading the league, while registering a pair of shutouts.

He then went 4-2 vs. Brooks in the Doyle Cup while sporting a 1.84 average along with a .936 save percentage and had one shutout.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Prince George was 11th-best on the power play during the year at 19.7% and fourth on the penalty kill at 82.7%.

They were second on the P.P. in the playoffs at 27.1% and sat ninth on the P.K. at 81.3% while going 11.8% with the man advantage in the Doyle Cup and 78.9% while shorthanded. In all they scored 43 times on the power play and added 10 shorthanded markers.

PRINCE GEORGE POINTS: The Spruce Kings currently have 12 players on their roster who have NCAA D-I commitments. … D-man Layton Ahac was slotted 62nd overall among North American skaters by NHL Central scouting in their final 2019 NHL Draft rankings. … Prince George is an impressive 20-3 so far in the 2019 postseason. … Since January 1st the club boasts a record of 34-6-3. … The Spruce Kings allowed a BCHL-low 120 goals against during the regular season and were 10th in goals for at 181. … They were tops in both categories in the playoffs, scoring 65 times while giving up just 27 enroute to the league championship.

With files from: Jesse Adamson, Communications Coordinator (BCHL); Jason La Rose, Manager, Content Services (Hockey Canada); Spencer Sharkey, Coordinator, Communications (Hockey Canada)