They hadn’t played a single shift together before the start of the B.C. Hockey League season, but it would be hard to tell with all the points they’re racking up.
The top line of Paul De Jersey, Michael Colantone and Jujhar Khaira combined for seven points and all the offence as the host Prince George Spruce Kings outlasted the Vernon Vipers 3-2 Friday night at the Coliseum.
Khaira, who earned first star for his 2+1 showing, redirected a Sedin-like slap pass by Kings’ defenceman Ben Woodley to record the winner on a third-period powerplay in front of 643 fans.
De Jersey, a former Salmon Arm SilverBack, is second in league scoring with 14-14-28 in just 13 games. Khaira, a 17-year-old Surrey product is a point back at 11-16-27. Colantone, who was picked up in September from the Victoria Grizzlies in exchange for defenceman Jesse Ursic, is in the top-10 with 9-12-21.
“They’ve got some good chemistry, they’re bigger bodies, they’ve got some good skill and they’re veteran players,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson, of the Spruce Kings’ trio. “They play a lot so they’re going to get their chances.
“It was a good hockey game that could have gone either way. Their guys, when you give them some time, made some plays.”
Colantone opened the scoring after the Vipers lost coverage in their zone. The Cave Creek, Ariz. native, standing alone in the slot, took a feed from behind the net and buried his ninth of the season at 9:20.
The Vipers, second in the Interior Conference at 9-4, equalized early in the second period with the teams playing 4-on-4. Mike Zalewski, also with his ninth of the season, took a breakaway feed from defenceman Ryan Renz and went in alone to beat nemtinder Marcus Beesley (26 saves) with a five-hole backhander at 3:36.
The Kings (7-5-0-1) restored the lead four minutes later on a 5-on-3 man advantage goal by Kaira as the left-handed sniper ripped a shot from his off-wing, firing over netminder Kirby Halcrow’s glove.
Halcrow made 29 stops in the loss.
After Darren Nowick was denied on a second Vernon breakaway, third star John Knisley (2nd goal) stuck with the play and ended up picking the top corner off a rebound after a strong cycle.
“A couple breakdowns, and against a team like that, you’ve got to know who you’re playing against when you’re on the ice,” said Williamson.
“If you look at the powerplays – they were 2-for-8 and we were 0-for-4 – that’s probably the difference in the game,” said Williamson. “I was pretty disappointed with the reffing, but no excuses, you can’t leave it in their hands.”
Williamson credited forwards Peter McMullen and Jedd Soleway for injecting some extra hustle into the lineup, and rewarded them with more ice time.
“They had some good shift, some good pressure,” he said.
Both the Vipers and Penticon Vees will be missing bodies when they meet Wednesday night at Wesbild Centre.
The Vipers, already without injured captain Pat McGillis (ankle), will be missing forward Aaron Hadley and d-men Brett Corkey and Luke Juha as they are in Langley auditioning for Team Canada West for the upcoming World Junior A Challenge.
The Vees are without blueliner Troy Stecher and forwards Travis St. Denis and Curtis Loik. Penticton forward Mario Lucia and d-man Mike Reilly, both of Minnesota, will compete with Team U.S. at the tourney, Nov. 7-13 in Langley.
“They wanted that game (against Prince George) and now they’re looking forward to a big game on Wednesday. We haven’t had a lot of luck against Penticton, but sometime that will change,” said Williamson.
SNAKE BITES: The Viper bus broke down half way between Quesnel and Prince George on the way home Friday night. The team had to wait until 3 a.m. before the Spruce Kings’ bus came to rescue them…Penticton captain Logan Johnston has committed to the NCAA Division 1 University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks for the fall of 2012. Johnston, a 20-year-old Penticton native, has 69 points in 173 career regular-season games. Currently serving a 25-game suspension for an incident during a preseason game, he will be eligible to play Nov. 26 versus the Chilliwack Chiefs…SilverBacks’ rookie forward Alex Gillies recorded a goal and assist as the ‘Backs bowed 6-5 to the Merritt Centennials Friday night at the Sunwave Centre. The 16-year-old Vernon native has three goals and two assists in 12 games.