Spruce Kings now 3-0 to start season
Ben Brar brought some TNT to the rink with him Friday night.
In fact, he might have rubbed a few drops of nitro glycerine into that hockey stick of his.
Whatever Brar had working for him, it had a dynamite effect on the Coquitlam Express. He was dangerous all night and with two timely goals blew away all hope the Express had of leaving Rolling Mix Concrete Arena with a win at the expense of his Prince George Spruce Kings.
They beat the Express 5-3 to improve their B.C. Hockey League record to a perfect 3-0-0-0 in front of 731 spectators.
Brar already had five quality shots on goal when he finally buried his sixth, just 14 seconds into the third period. Sprung into the clear by defenceman Liam Watson-Brawn, Brar took aim from the face-off circle and rifled a low shot that went off the glove and through the legs of goalie Clay Stevenson. That put the Kings ahead 3-2 but their first lead of the night didn’t last long.
Cooper Connell took the puck off the side boards at the blueline, skated deep into the Prince George zone and slid in a backhander along the ice as he cut through the crease.
But with less than four minutes to play, Patrick Cozzi fired the game-winer. He cradled the puck on his stick on a feed from Dylan Anhorn and waited for Stevenson to dip his shoulder before he let go a wrist shot from 30 feet out.
Brar capped the scoring with his third of the season, an empty-netter off a well-timed dive to chip the puck off the stick of Pito Walton.
“I had a lot of chances but my teammates made it easy for me out there,” said Brar. “Our d-men really stepped up and made it easy for our forwards.
“We kind of fell asleep in the game there (in the second period) but it was nice to pull out the ‘W.’ We just have to learn how to play the full 60 minutes but that will come as the year goes on. Coquitlam has turned their team around pretty well and it was a tight game all night.”
The Kings got great production from their defencemen – Anhorn, with a goal and two assists, and Watson-Brawn, who contributed two assists. Corey Cunningham had the other Spruce Kings goal. Christian Sanda, Regan Kimens and Connell scored for Coquitlam (1-2-0-0).
After a scoreless first period the teams each struck twice in the middle frame.
Outshot 14-4 in the first period, Coquitlam connected for the game’s opening goal five minutes into the period. Sanda took a cross-ice feed from linemate Joshua Bruce and lifted a hard backhander into the far side of the net.
Kimens doubled the lead on an Express power play, cruising in from his point position to fire a wrister that went in over the glove of goalie Logan Neaton, who drew his third consecutive start in goal for the Kings.
Down 2-0, the Prince George power went to work late in the second period and just eight seconds into Chase Danol’s tripping penalty, after a face-off win by Nolan Welsh, the puck came back to the left point for Anhorn and the 19-year-old defenceman unleashed a slap shot that sailed in behind Stevenson.
Two minutes later, a pair of P.G. boys combined to score the equalizer. Craig MacDonald chipped the puck away from Express forward Dallas Farrell, sending Cunningham in alone and his wrist shot caught a piece of Stevenson’s glove before it ended up in the net.
“Obviously the first goal for me to start the third wasn’t the best one, I’d kind of like to have that one back,” said Stevenson. “But overall I thought the guys battled hard. We could have shown a bit more grit to kind of hold it off and seal it up but…”
Stevenson, a Dartmouth College recruit, was with the Express last season and suffered through a 10-win last-overall season. It’s a much different team in front of him now.
“At the beginning of the season we started really gelling as a group more and it’s pretty exciting to see what we can accomplish this season and what we have to look forward to,” he said. “I feel our group has a lot of potential. We knew (the Spruce Kings) were a strong team coming in and we knew we had to battle hard and we showed what we can do in the first half of the game but we kind of let off the gas in the second half and they capitalized on it.”
Watson-Brawn also drew an assist on Anhorn’s goal and played a solid game in his own end. The 18-year-old Colgate University recruit showed great hustle getting back in time to knock the puck away from Farrell on a partial breakaway after Anhorn overskated the puck with the game still tied 2-2.
Friday’s 2-0 deficit was the first time in the three games this season the Kings have had to mount a comeback.
“We didn’t have the best second period but I like how we bounced back and came up with the win,” said Watson-Brawn. “All credit to Coquitlam, they played a great game, but we just have to come out harder (Saturday).”
The same teams meet again tonight (7 p.m.) at RMCA.
Prince George Spruce Kings forward Ben Poisson tries to go to the outside on Coquitlam Express defenceman Pito Walton on Friday night at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena in the first game of a weekend BCHL doubleheader.