The Prince George Spruce Kings have a week to savour the sweet taste of success following a four-game sweep of the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL final Fred Page Cup last Wednesday.
Then it’s back to work, as the Spruce Kings travel to Brooks, Alta. to face the Bandits for the Doyle Cup best-of-seven series starting Friday.
Normally, the Doyle Cup is an elimination event with the winner of the seven-game-series advancing to the National Jr. A championship (formerly RBC Cup). This year, however, Brooks is the host of the National championship and because they also won the Alberta Junior League (AJHL) title, both teams will play in the national event with Brooks as host and the Spruce Kings as the Pacific representative.
Prince George beat the Vipers 3-1 in Game 4 to finish off an incredible 16-1 run in the playoffs, which included sweeps of the Chilliwack Chiefs, Victoria Grizzlies, and Vipers. Connor Welsh opened the scoring on the power play, tipping in a point shot from defenceman Layton Ahac midway through the first period. Ben Poisson notched the winner with just under 15 to play in the middle frame, teeing off on a setup from Patrick Cozzi and Max Coyle to make it 2-0.
Vernon’s Teddy Wooding brought the Vipers to within one at 12:42 of the third, but Cozzi iced it with an empty netter with 39 seconds remaining.
“We’re ecstatic obviously, we’re real proud of our group and all the staff,” Kings head coach Adam Maglio, a Nelson native, told the Prince George Citizen. “We’ve all pushed in the right direction, it obviously takes a lot of work from the players especially and the buy-in’s been incredible. It’s a special group and it’s a pleasure coaching them.”
Joining Maglio behind the bench back in 2017 was associate coach Alex Evin, a Castlegar native, and former BCHL goalie, who enjoyed a successful NCAA career with Colgate University.
Goaltending was also a big reason the Spruce Kings were so dominant. PG goalie Logan Neaton played all 17 games in the playoffs, making 406 saves on 432 shots for a .940 save percentage and a 1.46 goals-against average.
“Logan was incredible and he was very composed tonight when they pushed hard at the end,” said Maglio. “He made timely saves like he has all playoffs – he’s been a huge part.
“I think everyone in the lineup has all contributed in their own way.”
The tandem of Maglio and Evin has proven effective, winning the Mainland Division crown last season, before falling to the Wenatchee Wild in five games in the Fred Page Cup. This year, they’ve taken the next step in wrapping up the BCHL title in unprecedented fashion, and are now working towards hanging up their first Doyle Cup banner at Rolling Mix Concrete (RMC) Arena in Prince George.
“To have success in the playoffs you have to have a great group, which we have, and a bit of luck,” said Kings GM Mike Hawes. “We stayed healthy and the credit goes to Adam (Maglio), Alex (Evin) and the players. There’s no team in our league that’s better prepared than we are for every game. Even games like Game 3 (a 4-3 win Tuesday in overtime) where it maybe wasn’t the best game we played in the playoffs but we found a way to win and that’s how to win playoff series.”
Maglio, who coached his fourth year in Prince George, was given a two-year extension on his contract at the start of the 2018-19 season.
The Doyle Cup: The format for the Doyle Cup is a best-of-seven series, but is set up for a one travel commitment, meaning that once the series switches to Prince George, it will remain at the RMC Arena until the winner is decided.
If one team wins both of the first two games in Brooks, the series will then shift to Prince George for the remaining games. If the first two games are split, a third game will be played on Sun, Apr. 28 in Brooks.
The possible dates for the first Kings’ home game are Tuesday Apr. 30 (sweep in Brooks) or Wed, May 1 (if split). The second home game would be the following evening either May 1 (sweep) or May 2 (split).