The Prince Rupert Rampage are back in the playoffs … and in black.
The team will be hosting the defending CIHL champions Terrace River Kings next weekend in a best-of-three first round series and the organization is asking for fans to wear black in a Jim Ciccone Civic Centre “black out”.
It will be a rematch of the last time Prince Rupert was in the playoffs — two years ago. While this year they have more firepower and scoring hasn’t been the problem that has hurt the team, it’s keeping their heads.
When you’re from a town where fortunes are so closely tied to exporting and importing resources, the ups and downs just come with the territory.
This year’s team has a good blend of young and old. Fans are hoping they can use this combination of experience and youth and skill and grit, all while not crossing the line.
The goal will be a berth in the Coy Cup, which this year is hosted by the very same River Kings.
How important is it to the team and the city that Prince Rupert is back in the playoffs?
The Rampage’s coach Roger Atchinson commented on this and how the boys match up against the River Kings.
“This year is pretty exciting for us as a team and Prince Rupert. We missed [the playoffs] last year, but this year’s slate is wiped clean,” said the coach.
“We went 2-2 against Terrace [this season], all were close games. It was a saw-off every time we played them. It’s a good little rivalry, and both teams know each other. I don’t like to match lines, I like to hope our four lines can get the job done. We might shorten up a bit, depending on the circumstances.”
The plan of action will only be carried out if the team stays out of the box, he added.
“You can come up with a game plan, but a lot of times as soon as the puck drops, it changes. If we’re disciplined as a team, the results with follow,” said Atchison, who added that Terrace may play more relaxed thanks to their assurance that the team will be competing for the Coy Cup.
“[The River Kings] are already in, so they will probably be a bit looser with less pressure. But when they come to our place, in front of our crowd, there will be pressure on them. It’s an electric place to play. If everyone’s healthy, chipping in, we have a good mix of guys and stand a great chance. We will have to sit four guys on Friday, but it pushes guys to perform and win a spot. Having the extra guys helps a lot at home and on road trips,” he said.
“No one’s trying to hurt each other, guys are respectful and no one’s trying to maim each other. Everyone goes for a beer after.”
Coach Atchinson didn’t name a starting goalie, but added that he has a great group of goalies to choose from, including likely starter Devon Gerrits and backup Jarrod Hildebrandt.
Sniper Braydon Horcoff knows it won’t be an easy time, going head-to-head against the defending champs, but he likes his team’s chances.
“I think it is a good match-up for us because we can win if we play our best hockey. It’s not going to be an easy series as Terrace is a good team but we have the ability to outplay them.”
Horcoff commented on which players on Terrace are able to get under the Rampage’s skin.
“I wouldn’t single out any player on their team as annoying but they do have a bunch of big strong guys that are tough to play against. They are a physical team and everyone finishes checks from their biggest to their smallest player.”
Horcoff also mentioned the crowd’s ability to motivate the team at the Jim, something that shouldn’t be underestimated in an intimate setting like the Prince Rupert arena.
“Playing in front of a big crowd during crucial games is a huge motivator. It instantly gives us a boost of energy and extra drive to do what it takes to win. Playing for the Rampage isn’t just about the team, it’s also about the community. Knowing we have our fans supporting us is a great feeling.”
Team president Ron German commented what it means for the city and fans to be able to watch a playoff game.
“It’s huge for us that we have another home game, and potentially more. It’s great for the fans. I think everyone’s feeling a big sense of relief to be back in the playoffs, even though everyone gets in, we all want the boys to do well. We want to show the fans that this is the strongest team we’ve had in Rupert in the last five years,” he said.
“It’s been a great year, and the attendance has been awesome. We’re hoping to see a sellout,” German added. “Everyone’s stayed relatively healthy, so if we can continue that and keep our discipline, we should be in good shape.”
The president hopes the fans can do their best in wearing black to match the team’s uniforms.
“We are going to wear black, so we are encouraging all the fans that come out to wear black, so we can have a ‘black out’ at home. We want fans to see a different look.”
After the game, the players will try and regroup for another weekend of playoff hockey in Terrace, despite most of the group having full-time jobs.
The team has been great role models for the kids in the community, often visiting schools and walking in community parades.
The game will commence at 7 p.m. at the civic centre on Saturday, Jan. 30. Game 2 goes at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6 in Terrace and Game 3 (if necessary) is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7.