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Spruce Kings battle back but let game slip in third period

CRANBROOK – The Prince George Spruce Kings battled back in the second period to tie the game up but watched as the Bucks pulled away in the third period, defeating the Spruce Kings 4-3 at Western Financial Place Friday night.

With the win, the Bucks improve their record to 26-10-1-1 and sit comfortably in second place in the Interior Division with a six-point gap between them and third-place West Kelowna.

Meanwhile, the Spruce Kings remain in fourth place as they lost their 15th game of the season. Their record sits at 20-15-2-1.

Prince George outshot the Bucks 34-27 on Friday, however, Nathan Airey showed why he’s posting the league’s best save percentage. Airey stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced. For Jordan Fairlie, he allowed four goals on 27 shots before being pulled with over four minutes remaining in the third period.

Rhys Bentham opened the scoring in the first period. Jarrod Smith dropped the puck back to the Bucks’ defenceman at the top of the left-wing circle, allowing Bentham to come down the circle and fire a shot near-side corner on Fairlie.

Smith and Nick Peluso earned assists on the opening goal.

Inside the final minute of the first period, Peluso added to his stat line. At 19:34, the Bucks forward scored his 13th of the season. Jack Silich and Luke Pfoh assisted on the play as Cranbrook took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

In the second period, the Spruce Kings struggled to work the puck in close to the Cranbrook net. That is until Jack Stockfish cut back along the left-wing boards and worked the puck on the net before deking out Airey and sliding the puck under his left pad to get PG on the board. The goal marked Stockfish’s 10th of the season. Owen Goodbrand and Ben LeFranc earned the assists on the play.

Towards the end of the period, Amran Bhabra kept the puck inside the offensive zone after regaining possession of the puck. The Spruce Kings’ defenceman saw a lane, stepped up, and fired a shot through traffic and into the back of the Cranbrook net to tie the game up 2-2.

A four-minute high-sticking major to Jake Schneider put Prince George on the penalty kill, with over two minutes carrying over to the third period.

In the third period, the Spruce Kings were able to successfully kill off the penalty, but shortly after the Bucks took off.

Just over two minutes apart, the Bucks were able to score a pair of goals and re-establish their two-goal lead. At 6:36, Smith made it a 3-2 lead as Silich and Bentham assisted the play. Then, at 8:41, Noah Quinn tapped in a cross-crease feed from Cooper Boulanger to make it 4-2.

Prince George opted to pull Jordan Fairlie with over four minutes remaining, and while they were able to keep the Bucks pinned deep in their own end the Spruce Kings struggled to keep time on their side. Ty Gagno did make it a one-goal game after Goodbrand fed the centreman a saucer pass on the backside.

The Bucks defeated the Spruce Kings 4-3 to improve their season series record to a perfect 3-0. The two teams won’t meet again until the end of the regular season when the Spruce Kings travel back to Cranbrook.

Prince George will continue with their weekend road trip with a visit to Trail for their fifth and final meeting against the Smoke Eaters. The game will get underway at 7:00 PM at Cominco Arena.



Spruce Kings: Stockfish, Bhabra, Gagno

Bucks: Bentham, Peluso, Smith, Quinn


Spruce Kings: Jordan Fairlie (L) 56:12 (4 GA, 23 saves)

Bucks: Nathan Airey (W) 60:00 (3 GA, 31 saves)


Spruce Kings: 0/2 (0%)

Bucks: 0/3 (0%)


Spruce Kings: 34

Bucks: 27

Next Game: Saturday, February 4 versus the Trail Smoke Eaters at Cominco Arena in Trail, BC.