Now that the 2020-21 BC Hockey League season is done, the Prince George Spruce Kings are taking time to reflect while also looking towards the fall.
The league’s most northern franchise ended the three-team Chilliwack Pod with a 14-5-0-1 record, beating out the host Chiefs and dominating the Merritt Centennials, winning nine out of ten times.
Spruce Kings head coach Alex Evin thought his team had the perfect blend.
“We liked our group this year. It was a mix of youth and experience and I think we have a lot of players returning next season who we are happy with. Playing these games was important for us as a program to continue building.”
In hockey, elite teams at any level are often built from the goaltender out. Over the course of 20 games, the Spruce Kings gave up just 37 goals – the second-fewest in the BCHL.
Only Penticton was better, allowing a minuscule 23 goals-against. But on paper, the Vees faced significantly weaker competition in the Trail Smoke Eaters and expansion Cranbrook Bucks.
“We are proud of our goalies the way they improved and our entire team defense was good as well. We were not giving up a lot of scoring chances five-on-five so it was easier for them to make that transition to junior hockey,” said Evin.
A season unlike any other
It was a long journey to the Fraser Valley for the Spruce Kings. After plowing through a series of COVID-19 cases, which led to a 14-day quarantine – the Spruce Kings had to take that step a second time once the BCHL’s return to play plan was approved.
While in Chilliwack, the Spruce Kings spent 42 nights in a hotel.
“It’s not easy on anybody as I am sure that is the longest all of us as a staff or our players have been away from friends and family. It was really nice too that we were together as we had an awesome setup. We were within walking distance from the hotel to the arena and pretty much all we did was eat, sleep and play hockey,” added Evin.
“For our captain Mason Waite he has been great in his two years here. On and off the ice he has improved himself so much by earning a scholarship to the next level and for him to not have been able to play this year would have been pretty tough while preparing for college. We are happy for guys like that.”
“It’s the same for Andrew Seaman. He was our only American and stayed with it the entire year. He came across the border, he didn’t go home for Christmas – we appreciate that. He was dedicated to our program and to the team and when we finally got to play it was nice to see guys make sacrifices like that. He was having a great pod season before he got hurt.”
While Cunningham has the championship pedigree, Buono might be the hardest to replace after notching an eye-popping 14 goals inside the Chilliwack pod.
The future is bright
Connor Elliott, Ben LeFranc, and Linden Makow also saw their fair share of ice-time, giving them a leg up for next season. Barring any further changes, the leadership core for next season will consist of Kolton Cousins and Rowan Miller both of whom are likely frontrunners to wear the “C” in the fall.