It was almost a huge win for the Rupert Rampage, but a late rally led to a 4-3 overtime loss to the Smithers Steelheads in Prince Rupert on Saturday night.
For most of its last regular-season home game, the Rampage outplayed Smithers, taking a 2-0 lead into the third period but some late penalty trouble allowed the Steelheads back into the game.
In the end, it was the very thing that was making the Rampage so successful early in the game — staying out of the penalty box — that ultimately did them in.
“I think we’re one of the best five-on-five teams in the league, but as soon as we got into that penalty trouble, Smithers moves the puck well and capitalized on that,” defenceman Jared Davis said after the game.
The home team started off the game with lots of good pressure against the Steelheads, firing pucks on goalie David Little, who got his 10th win of the season. But he made some big saves, as he did throughout the whole game.
The game remained scoreless, with Little and Rupert goalie Brett Roth stealing the spotlight, until almost halfway through the second period. Craig Munro managed to get a puck into the net to give the crowd something to cheer about.
As the Rampage kept dominating puck possession and causing trouble in the Smithers zone, it paid off again when Tyler Ostrom potted Josh Cook’s original shot to put the rhinos up 2-0.
The penalty trouble started at the end of the period. Kory Movold took a penalty for slashing and Tyler Halliday for tripping a bit later, giving Smithers a five-on-three advantage for 34 seconds.
21 seconds into the third period, Brendan DeVries scored on the end of the Halliday penalty to get the Steelheads on the board.
Less than two minutes later, the Rampage responded with a goal by Movold — his 10th of the season — assisted by Halliday and Ostrom to restore Rupert’s two-goal lead, but the Smithers team was relentless.
Another two minutes later, the visiting team struck again on a marker by Mike Wall. Fast forward 11 minutes and the Steelheads tied it up on the powerplay with just 4:13 to play, leading to a tense final few minutes and overtime period.
In the extra time, the Rampage again were on the defensive, killing off an Ostrom penalty. Even so, Thomas Robinson had a breakaway chance but couldn’t get it past Little.
With 1:52 left in overtime, Wall fired a shot that found the back of the net to seal the win.
Despite the tough loss, Davis said the team has stepped up its level of play in 2017.
“We’re all working hard, we’re all putting in that extra effort, going to practice, going to dryland and we’ve got an amazing squad here,” he said.
The defenceman has been on the team for six or seven years now and said this is the best Rampage team he has been a part of.
The Rampage and the Steelheads will rematch in Smithers on Saturday to close out the regular season. While there’s isn’t a lot Davis thinks the time needs to change completely, it’s more a matter of fine-tuning as they look ahead to the playoffs.
“I think we’re doing almost everything right right now. We’ve got a young team, we’re probably one of the fastest teams in the league so we’ve got to just make sure we’re going 100 per cent for all three periods,” Davis said.