Pre-Christmas three-in-three road trips have always troubled Powell River Kings. However, with the blinding light of a two-week Christmas break in their annual BC Hockey League schedule getting closer and closer, this year’s trip was highlighted by a pair of gutsy road wins to send the team into the break on a high note.
The trip began Friday, December 14, in Langley against the Rivermen, a team that beat Powell River on home ice in October by a 3-1 score. The travel day to the Lower Mainland was complicated by a king tide at Langdale, coinciding with the team’s scheduled ferry, meaning they were delayed en route to the game but arrived in time for puck drop.
Despite Powell River scoring the first goal via Ryan Pouliot, Langley countered with a pair to lead 2-1 after 20 minutes. From there, Kings seized control as Josh Coblenz scored just 42 seconds into the second period on shorthanded breakaway to tie the score at two. It was part of a five-goal middle frame for Powell River, with tallies from Ryan Brushett, Neal Samanski, Ethan Schmunk and Levi Glasman. Kings took a commanding 6-2 advantage through 40 minutes.
Rivermen scored the lone goal in the final frame, but Kings shut the door and opened their weekend on a winning note by a 6-3 score. Goaltender Mitch Adamyk notched his sixth consecutive victory.
The win was the first for Powell River in a pre-Christmas three-in-three road trip since 2014.
“This is a huge part of the season for us, one of the biggest times of the year for us to pick up some valuable points,” said Pouliot on the Kings run of road wins leading into the break. “Right now the boys are dialed in; we’ve got three in a row on the road and we’re looking for more.”
More came the following evening in Merritt in the compact confines of Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. In a game that more closely resembled shinny than Junior A hockey, Powell River fell behind 2-0 early after giving up a pair of powerplay goals.
Head coach Tyler Kuntz called his timeout to settle the troops and the break paid dividends with Ben Thomas scoring on a powerplay a couple of minutes later.
The game seesawed back and forth until late in the second period when Ethan Kimball scored to cut Merritt’s advantage to 4-3. Jayden Lee scored to open the third period and then Brushett’s second of the game put the Kings ahead. Despite a Merritt tying goal shortly thereafter, Schmunk scored the eventual game winner with fewer than five minutes remaining for a 6-5 Powell River victory. Matteo Paler-Chow earned the win after coming in relief of Adamyk in the first intermission.
“I’ve scored the last goal of a game a lot this year, but this one obviously meant a lot more,” said Schmunk on his first game winner as a King. “This was a good road win, we woke up a bit after the timeout in the first and it’s good to come away with two points.”
The pre-Christmas afternoon finale took place in Coquitlam on Sunday, December 16, the second meeting this year against the Express after a 6-3 loss at the BC Hockey League Showcase in September. The contest was rough from start to finish for a Powell River team that fell behind 4-0 en route to another 6-3 loss.
The game was marred by a lengthy delay in the second period as former Kings affiliate and Express forward Danny Pearson was injured by a hit and stretchered off the ice.
Adamyk took the loss after coming in relief of Paler-Chow after 20 minutes.
“You can make excuses about the travel and the weekend and the trip, but credit Coquitlam; we just didn’t have it tonight,” said Kings assistant coach Brock Sawyer. “Our attention to detail was poor from the opening shift and obviously their game plan was to jump on us early, and it worked well.”
Kings are idle until December 29 when they visit Cowichan Valley. The previously scheduled December 30 game against Victoria has been postponed until February due to ice availability issues in Victoria.
The next home games at Hap Parker Arena are scheduled for Friday, January 4 (Wenatchee), and Sunday, January 6 (Cowichan).