Lucky 13 was the charm for the Prince George Spruce Kings.
A 3-1 win over the Vernon Vipers in Game 4 of the B.C. Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup championship series Wednesday at Kal Tire Place in Vernon gave the Spruce Kings their first-ever league title in its 23-year BCHL existence.
It was Prince George’s 13th straight playoff win, capping one of the greatest runs in BCHL post-season history as the Spruce Kings went 16-1, only allowing more than two goals in a game twice. Their only blemish was a 3-0 loss (empty net goal) in Game 4 of the opening round against the Coquitlam Express.
Since Feb. 1, Prince George has gone 25-2, and will now face the Alberta champion Brooks Bandits in a slated best-of-seven Doyle Cup series, scheduled to start April 26 in Brooks.
Prince George’s win also clinched them a spot in the National Junior A Hockey Championship May 11-19 in Brooks.
As they did in the entire series – and haven’t since late in the second period of Game 4 of their league semifinal sweep of the Victoria Grizzlies – the Spruce Kings never trailed Wednesday.
Nolan Welsh opened the scoring for the champs at 9:28 of the first period, deflecting a pass from Layton Ahac past Aidan Porter on a powerplay.
Ben Poisson, who scored the Game 3 overtime winner Tuesday, notched his 13th post-season marker on another Spruce Kings powerplay at 5:14, going bar-down over Porter’s left shoulder for a 2-0 PG lead.
The Vipers, who had 18 shots in the first period of Game 3, didn’t reach 18 shots until about five minutes into the third period. Shortly after, Teddy Wooding gave Vernon life with a rocket off a shot on a powerplay that went bar-down over Spruce Kings goalie Logan Neaton, who has played every minute of the Prince George championship run.
Vernon had several great chances to tie the game but could not get the puck past Neaton and, with 39 seconds left, Patrick Cozzi scored his second of the playoffs into the empty net, causing an eruption of joy at the Spruce Kings bench.
Porter finished with 15 saves while Neaton made 18 stops in the tightest checking game of the series.
The Vipers are now 0-8 in their last two Fred Page Cup appearances. They were swept in 2014 by the Express. Vernon was seeking a league-best 13th overall championship.