Take your hand away from the panic button, take a deep breath, all is right again in Kings land. Powell River snapped their two game slump with last night's convincing 4-1 win over the Penticton Vees.
It was eerie how similar the game was to that of Saturday's setback at the SOEC in Penticton. In that game, Craig Dalrymple scored the opening goal on the power-play less than two minutes into the first period. However the Vees responded with four consecutive goals en route to that 4-1 victory.
Fast forward to Tuesday where the Kings flipped the script on the Vees. Steven Iacobellis converted on the Vees second power-play, 7:32 into the first period to give the visitors the lead. Many, including myself thought, oh no, here we go again. The Kings were guilty early in the period of being too emotional, too amped up and took a couple of careless penalties. Even though the Vees had the lead, I thought the turning point came earlier in the first period, maybe even before the game.
There were fireworks in the pre-game warm up as players from either side were jawing at each other. It almost came to a head when two players from both teams stood chest to chest across the red line from one another. However, cooler heads prevailed for a few minutes and the warm-up closed without incident. There was a report of a Vee player firing a puck at the vicinity of a few King players, however I did not see it myself and that may have came form someone with a tin foil hat on.
The warm-up chest pounding lead to a fight just 28 seconds into the first period between Chris Williams and Paul Bezzo. Both found each other at centre ice and the fight took place just inside the Vees zone. Williams was the only player to land significant blows and wrestled Bezzo to the ice. The fight, in my opinion, showed the Kings were not going to be pushovers and sent a message to the Vees that they were in for a long night.
Even though Iacobellis had his team out in front, the Kings did not buckle. They continued soldiering on into the first intermission. The Kings out shot the Vees 10-6 and seemed to gain momentum as the period wore on. They would carry that into the second, where the game took a turn for the better.
What I noticed in the two losses over the weekend was the lack of puck luck for the Kings. Some might scuff at that notion, but in hockey it seems to play a significant factor in every game. Quite simply, the Kings fought the puck all weekend. That would change in the second period last night.
Cohen Adair tied the game at one in an unorthodox manner. Justin DaSilva took a point shot that was gloved down by Kyle Beaulieu in front, but as he dropped the puck down to his stick, Adair wacked it out of mid air and past Joel Rumpel to tie the game. Finally a bounce went Powell River's way.
The Kings would take the lead just over four minutes later on the power-play. Chad Niddery deflected a Jon Jutzi point shot past Rumpel for his 19th and game winner at 9:21. The goal turned the tide in favour of the Kings as they finally capitalized with the man advantage.
From there on out, it seemed like the Vees took a step back and the Kings a step forward. Penticton still had great chances using their speed, but the Kings physical play started taking a toll. Penticton was guilty of turning pucks over at their blue line which resulted in chances for the Kings. When the Vees seemed to press, the Kings were ready and countered on the chances the Vees surrendered.
The second period was a big one for Powell River as they took over the play and out shot the Vees 21-9. If you recall last Saturday, it was Penticton out hitting and out playing the Kings in the second period. In that frame the Vees out shot the Kings 17-9.
The third period was more of what we saw in the second. The Kings did come out aggressive and laid the body whenever they could. They did get careless once more and were short handed not even five minutes into the period. However while short handed, the game was sealed on a great play by two regular customers.
Chad Niddery picked off an errant back hand clear by Joey Laleggia and executed a beautiful short handed two on one down low with Matt Garbowsky. The rush ended with number nine tapping in goal number 34. The goal energized the Kings and deflated the Vees and proved to be the so called "nail in the coffin."
Late in the third, Andrew Pettitt stripped a Vee player at the Kings blue line and was off on a partial break away. Pettitt held off a hard charging Bezzo on the backcheck and made a quick move to his fore hand and put the puck past the left arm of Rumpel for the final goal of the game.
The final shots were 44-25 in favour of Powell River. The Kings finished 1 for 5 on the power-play and the Vees were 1 for 7.
The result for Powell River goes beyond the boxscore and the standings for the Kings. The team was emotionally fragile after the two losses on the weekend. Looking at their faces and body language on the bus ride home, it felt like they had just lost a Game 7. Last night's game was a total team effort from the Hawryluk line to Garbowsky's unit. The Kings looked like the team we saw before the Christmas break and hopefully that's a sign of things to come.
The team pushed their home record to 21-3-0-1 and showed why they are one of the toughest teams to play against at home.
Here's to the same effort on Friday versus Cowichan Valley.