The Prince Rupert Rampage put the Central Interior Hockey League Western Conference leading Terrace River Kings on the brink of elimination from the playoffs on Saturday night, but it wasn’t a win that came easy for the team.
The two teams took to the ice for game one of the best-of-three conference semifinal series in front of a packed house who got to witness playoff hockey at its finest. The game got underway with a bit of a goaltender battle as Warren Hanson of the Rampage and Garrett Muir of the River Kings turned away everything that came their way in the early going. It was the home team that struck first, to the delight of the crowd, as Jordan Weir found the back of the net with 7:18 to play to give Prince Rupert the one goal lead, with assists to Devin Palmer and Greg Sheppard. That would be all the offence in the period as the Rampage took a 1-0 lead into the second frame.
The River Kings came out fighting to pull even in the second and that pressure paid off when Nick Homeniuk finally found a way to beat Hanson with 14:05 to play to draw the game even. Despite several chances on both ends, Hanson and Muir stood their ground and the period ended deadlocked at one to ensure an exciting finish for the estimated 800 fans in attendance.
The Rampage quickly brought the fans to their feet in the third as Mike Coolin beat Muir less than three minutes into the period, with assists to Palmer and Marcus Atchison. Late in the period, the River Kings drew things even again when Homeniuk netted his second of the game with 6:27 on the clock. While it looked like overtime was coming, penalties would prove to be costly for the Kings. The team was assessed a delay of game penalty and Jeremy Vandenbroeck was given a matching game misconduct with 2:10 on the clock to give the Rampage a five-on-three in the dying minutes. With just 45 seconds left to play, Palmer would fire one past Muir for his third point of the night and the Rampage celebrated a 3-2 victory.
The series will now shift to Terrace this weekend for game two on Saturday night and, if needed, game three on Sunday afternoon. Look for results from those games in next week’s issue of the Northern View.
Around the League
The River Kings weren’t the only higher-seeded team to taste defeat over the weekend.
The other Western Conference playoff game saw the Smithers Steelheads down the Kitimat Ice Demons 6-4 in a game that went into the early morning hours after the start was delayed due to the closure of Hwy 16.
In the Eastern Conference, the Houston Luckies upset the Quesnel Kangaroos 4-3 while the top-seeded Williams Lake Stampeders survived a scare as they barely beat the Lac La Hache Tomahawks 4-3.