Spruce Kings host­ing Griz­zlies tonight

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Ted CLARKE Ci­ti­zen staff [email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

Still look­ing for his first win as a B.C. Hockey League head coach, Alex Evin isn’t push­ing any panic but­tons.

The new sea­son is just en­ter­ing its sec­ond week and Evin has no doubts his Prince George Spruce Kings – still smart­ing from a reg­u­la­tion loss and an over­time loss last week­end to the vis­it­ing Sur­rey Ea­gles – will soon find the win col­umn.

When he stepped up from his as­sis­tant’s role this sum­mer to re­place Adam Maglio, Evin in­her­ited a younger, much less ex­pe­ri­enced Kings squad than the one that steam­rolled its way to the na­tional cham­pi­onship fi­nal last sea­son.

Grow­ing pains are ex­pected.

“It’s go­ing to take some time to get to where we need to get to,” said Evin, 32, who turned five years of ex­pe­ri­ence as a BCHL goalie with Pow­ell River, Wil­liams Lake and Pen­tic­ton into a full-ride schol­ar­ship and a four-year stint stop­ping pucks at Col­gate Univer­sity.

“As long as we’re learn­ing ev­ery game and get­ting bet­ter I think we’re go­ing to like the re­sult longterm,” he said. “We’ve had a good cou­ple days of practice and we should be ready for Fri­day against Vic­to­ria, it should be a good game.

“We’ve ob­vi­ously got a bit of a tar­get on our backs. Be­ing league champs we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to get ev­ery­one’s best ef­fort.”

That only adds to the dif­fi­culty of the task they have on their hands, first hav­ing to face the speedy Vic­to­ria Griz­zlies tonight (7 p.m.) at Rolling Mix Con­crete Arena, then on Satur­day host­ing the Pen­tic­ton Vees, the early-sea­son favourites to win the In­te­rior Di­vi­sion.

Like the Spruce Kings, who grad­u­ated 15 play­ers, the Griz have lost their main­stays from last year.

Alex Ne­whook, Alex Camp­bell, Ri­ley Hughes and Carter Berger are among 11 Griz­zlies from the team that got swept by the Spruce Kings in the con­fer­ence fi­nal now play­ing for NCAA schools.

The of­fen­sive-minded Griz­zlies (0-1) ran into a hot goalie Satur­day in Dun­can and lost 8-2 to the Cowichan Val­ley Cap­i­tals. BCHL player of the week Zach Borgiel stopped 32 of 34 Vic­to­ria shots.

The Kings lost 4-2 to Sur­rey on Fri­day and fell 4-3 in over­time to the Ea­gles in Satur­day’s re­match at RMCA.

In both games Evin was happy with his team’s spe­cial teams. On Fri­day they went 2-for-4 on the power play and held the Ea­gles to one PP goal on six chances. The Kings went 1-for-6 with the ex­tra skater Satur­day and suc­cess­fully killed off their one short­handed sit­u­a­tion.

“Our 5-on-5 game has been OK as well, look­ing at some of the goals we’ve given up its just young er­rors and in­ex­pe­ri­ence in the league,” said Evin.

“Hope­fully we can start learn­ing from some of that stuff. We have to un­der­stand it’s not easy to score in this league and not easy to win in this league and we can’t be giving up easy goals. Hope­fully we can make some ad­just­ments in that area.”

Twenty-year-old Jett Alexan­der, who came over in a trade from the North York Rangers, was made to look or­di­nary in the Sur­rey se­ries (3.49 goals-against av­er­age, .881 save per­cent­age) and more is ex­pected of him this week­end.

“Av­er­age, not his best,” was Evin’s as­sess­ment.

“He’s go­ing to need some time to adapt to the league. He’s been work­ing hard in practice and had some good video ses­sions I think he knows what he needs to do to be suc­cess­ful. He’s go­ing to im­prove, just like everybody else.”

Ear­lier this week the Kings ac­quired de­fence­man Evan Orr, an 18-year-old na­tive of Detroit, Mich., who col­lected five goals 16 points and 105 penalty min­utes in 48 games last sea­son for the Wilkes-Barre/ Scran­ton (Pa.) Knights of the North Amer­i­can Hockey League.

With the ex­cep­tion of BCHL sopho­more Nick Bochen, all the other de­fence­men are new to the league this year, in­clud­ing Orr, Bren­dan Hill, Nolan Bar­rett, Colton Cameron, Am­ran Bhabra, Cole Leal and Sol Seibel. Leal suf­fered a lower-body in­jury Fri­day and won’t be ready for a cou­ple weeks.

The Spruce Kings had the best crop of de­fence­men in the league last sea­son and the new­com­ers are try­ing to fill the gaps left now that Lay­ton Ahac, Dylan An­horn, Jay Ker­a­nen, Max Coyle and Liam Wat­sonBrawn have joined NCAA teams.

“It’s def­i­nitely tough hav­ing just one re­turn­ing guy, los­ing some re­ally good play­ers from last year,” said Kings cap­tain Nolan Welsh. “The guys com­ing in might strug­gle at the start but I think we can get there again.”

CI­TI­ZEN FILE PHOTO

Prince George Spruce Kings pose for a photo out­side their dress­ing room prior to tak­ing on the Sur­rey Ea­gles on Fri­day night at Rolling Mix Con­crete Arena.

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