The Rupert Rampage have shown they can hang with the big boys of the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL).
It’s just good old fashioned discipline the squad’s lacking right now.
The hometown team lost both games they hosted on the weekend, with the first coming in the shootout on Saturday night against the Williams Lake Stampeders.
Penalty trouble allowed the Stamps to get right back into the game after Rupert had gone up 4-2 in a cleanly-executed game that unravelled halfway through the third-period.
“They battled back and you just got to stay out of the penalty box,” said Rampage coach Roger Atchison after Saturday’s game, a 5-4 shootout loss to the undefeated Williams Lake squad (4-0).
Three out of the four goals the Stamps collected were scored with the man-advantage.
The Rampage (1-2-1) were in full control and on their way to their second win of the young season when, on the power-play, Williams Lake got two players behind Rupert’s defences and David Gore was able to flip a puck over the pads of starting netminder Devon Gerrits to cut the lead to 4-3.
Nathan Zurak tied things up at 4-4 with 10 minutes to go in the game and sent the contest to the skills competition where goals by Gore and Aaron Zurak topped the lone tally of Jordan Weir in the five-round shootout.
“You don’t ever want to get to the shootout. You want to finish the game before, but we’ve won one and lost one [in it] and it is what it is,” said Rampage captain Jared Meers.
Meers, Kory Movold, Weir and Tyler Bates recored tallies for Rupert against a strong Williams Lake side that only dressed 14 players in their marathon trek to Prince Rupert.
The Rampage did an admirable job shutting down their top weapons and exposing their slow defence with their speed up front, led by a swift-skating top line of Meers, Bates and Movold, who are proving to be a consistent threat every time they’re on the ice.
“Since camp, we’ve sort of been together and it’s been gelling. It’s all been coming together and we’re starting to feel each other out on the ice here. It’s been good,” said Meers of his linemates.
“They seem to be working hard together and looking for each other and they’re skating well and when you’re skating well, good things happen,” said Atchison.
The coach also mentioned the team’s blazing speed that they showed this weekend was by design.
“We dressed a lineup tonight that was pretty agile and had lots of speed so that was what we were trying to do and skate their defence hard and it worked well when we were five-on-five.”
Gore had another goal and Andrew Fisher rounded out the scoring for Williams Lake.
On Sunday, the Rampage found themselves in a 2-0 hole after a quick start by the Quesnel Kangaroos (2-3) had the rhinos reeling and, eventually, falling to the Kangaroos 5-2.
Jarrod Hildebrandt got his first start in a Rampage uniform and the young goalie didn’t disappoint.
Hildebrandt shut the door early after an opening face-off gaffe gave the Kangaroos a breakaway five seconds into the game.
The tall and imposing netminder’s best sequences during the game included keeping the contest scoreless early on when the Kangaroos were knocking on the door for their first goal, and in the dying minutes of the second period, with the game 2-1 for Quesnel, Hildebrandt repeatedly denied the ‘Roos’ efforts of going up 3-1, including stopping a shorthanded breakaway on Quesnel’s Tyrel Tergion.
Though, the Rampage did give up two back-breaking shorthanded goals throughout the game.
“We had bad giveaways [on the power-play],” said rhinos forward Jean-Luc Fournier.
“A few rough goals and bad bounces – it could have easily been won both ways.”
After playing two of the league’s top teams in Terrace and Williams Lake, the group is confident they can best anyone in the CIHL.
For now, they’ll have to look inward at the kinds of undisciplined play they’ve been showing.
“It’s tough. There’s a very fine line between a good penalty and a bad penalty [to take]. You just try to avoid it as much as you can,” said Fournier.
Next up is a rematch from the Rampage’s home-opener when the Kitimat Ice Demons roll into town on Nov. 1.
“We have four lines that can play. Everybody’s clicking – we’re on the same page so we’re just going to get better as the year goes on,” said Fournier.
Around the League
The Quesnel Kangaroos earned four points on the weekend, beating the Kitimat Ice Demons on Saturday, 5-4.
Smithers handed Terrace their first loss with a nasty 5-3 win that featured 10 ejections and six fights.
Williams Lake completed their weekend sweep with a 3-1 win over Kitimat on Sunday afternoon. The Stamps remain the only undefeated team.