The struggling Smithers Steelheads pulled into Prince Rupert on Saturday night looking to snap a five-game losing streak, but it would be the hometown Rampage who picked up their second consecutive win in a see-saw battle that took extra time to settle.
The Steelheads brought a noticeably short bench west, with only 11 skaters and two goaltenders, but the defending league champions proved more than capable of matching the Rampage in the early going. Smithers netminder Tyler Perreault and Rampage goalie Keano Wilson stopped everything that came their way to start, and it wasn’t until there was just 5:48 to play that the tie was broken when Prince Rupert’s Jordan Aubee found the back of the net to bring the crowd to their feet. That would prove to be all the scoring in the opening 20 minutes, giving the Rampage a 1-0 lead going into the second.
Prince Rupert kept up the pressure early in the second, which lead to Craig Munro beating Perreault to extend the Rampage’s lead. While other teams may have become disheartened with a short bench and a two-goal deficit early in the second, the Steelheads dug deep and controlled the rest of the period offensively. Captain Darryl Young cut the lead to one with 8:59 to play, Adam Devries tied things up with 5:13 to play and Devries netted his second of the game less than two minutes later to complete the comeback and give Smithers the 3-2 lead with 20 minutes left to play.
The Rampage, however, were determined not to let the game slip away and pick-up their first home win of the season. After much back and forth play, Craig Munro sniped a wrister over Perreault’s blocker with 13:06 to play to tie things up at three, and Munro nearly put the game out of reach with two shorthanded breakaways less than a minute apart that were both stopped. With less than six minutes on the clock, Brad Deshane fired a wrist shot through a crowd from just inside the blue-line that got past Perreault, giving the crowd hopes for a regulation win, but less than a minute later Ian Wilson lobbed a puck into the zone that was mishandled by Wilson and found the back of the net to tie things up again. While both teams had their opportunities late in the frame, neither were able to capitalize and the regulation buzzer sounded with a 4-4 tie leading to a five-minute overtime period.
In the overtime, Smithers took a tripping penalty with 3:33 to play that would prove to be costly. After cycling the puck around, the Rampage’s Brock Ward finished a cross-ice one-timer from Deshane that went under the glove of Perreault with 2:15 on the clock to give Prince Rupert the victory.
“They put our line out there for the whole powerplay, and we wanted to mix it up. We needed to get some net-front presence, which we did with Craig Munro getting in front of the goalie, and we just had to get a good shot off. It just happened it came off my stick,” said Ward of the overtime winner.
The victory was the Rampage’s second straight win against a tough division rival after picking up only a single victory early in the season, and Ward said it all comes down to the team beginning to gel.
“At the beginning of the season we knew we had a great team, but we had a lot of injuries, including myself … the biggest momentum change is just sticking to the game plan. We are not going to be a team that goes out there and dangles the puck around every other team, we need to be workhorses every game and we need to go out and play a full 60 minutes every single game,” he said, noting how great it is to be on a winning streak.
“We have a great coach in Roger Atchison who is really working hard with the team. Everyone is now buying into the system and we just need to focus on working hard every game. If we do that, we’re going to get two points every time.”
Next up for the Rampage is the Houston Luckies, a team that sits near the top of the CIHL western conference but suffered a loss to the Kitimat Ice Demons on Saturday night.
Look for full results from that game in next week’s issue of the Northern View.
Around the League
The Houston Luckies travelled with a short bench to Kitimat on Saturday night and suffered the consequences with a 9-2 loss to the Ice Demons.
After losing to Prince Rupert on Saturday night, the Smithers Steelheads bounced back on Sunday afternoon with a 5-2 victory over Kitimat.
The Williams Lake Stampeders soundly defeated the Lac La Hache Tomahawks 6-4 on Saturday night and 15-4 on Sunday afternoon.
1. Kitimat Ice Demons (6-4-1)
2. Smithers Steelheads (5-4-2)
3. Houston Luckies (5-2-2)
4. Terrace River Kings (3-3-1)
5. Prince Rupert Rampage (3-7)
1. Williams Lake Stampeders (8-2-1)
2. Quesnel Kangaroos (8-4)
3. Lac La Hache Tomahawks (2-7)