The Prince Rupert Rampage kicked off the 2013/2014 CIHL season against the Quesnel Kangaroos on Saturday night in a fast-paced, high-scoring affair.
The two teams left it all on the ice in the first period, but the highlight was the play of goaltenders Ryan Manderson of Quesnel and Warren Hanson of Prince Rupert. After Manderson shut the door in close on the powerplay, there was a close call at the other end of the ice when the puck got behind Hanson and sat there before eventually being cleared from the crease by the Rampage defense. With six minutes to play in the frame and Prince Rupert on the powerplay, both goalies were called upon to make some big saves. The period ended in a scoreless tie, but an altercation after the buzzer between Quesnel’s Dave Gordan and Jordan Aubee ensured the Rampage would start the second on the powerplay.
The late penalty proved to be costly for Quesnel as Kory Movold opened the scoring just 1:19 into the second with a wrister from a bad angle that beat Manderson. The excitement of the crowd was short lived though, as Tyrell Turgeon stole the puck in the offensive zone and went five-hole just over two minutes later to tie things up, Nick Tomassetti put one over the pad of Hanson less than five minutes later and Matt Stang netted a shorthanded goal by picking up a rebound at the side of the net with 5:06 to play to make it 3-1. While it looked like the Kangaroos would take a commanding lead into the final frame, the Rampage offence came to life as the clocked ticked down. Kendal Mossini’s unassisted goal with 2:56 to play was followed by a Kendal Stace-Smith goal just 13 seconds later to tie things at three. The crowd came to their feet at the end of the period when Jordan Weir picked up the puck at the side of the net and beat Manderson with 2.3 seconds left to give Rupert the 4-3 lead with one period left.
Quesnel quickly tied things up just 1:26 into the third when Paul Girodat forced a turnover at the blue line and fed Turgeon to complete the 2-on-0, and took the lead just over three minutes later as Alek Gibbs sniped a top-shelf wrister on a rare 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. The Rampage had opportunities late in the game, including a 5-on-3 powerplay with six minutes to go, but a late penalty for too many men on the ice resulted in another Kangaroos goal as Turgeon deked out Hanson and put away the backhander to give the visitors the 6-4 win.
“Tonight, there were a couple of turnovers on our powerplay and we gave up two shorthanded goals. I think that was the difference. Five-on-five I thought we were even, but those shorthanded goals were the difference … the special teams have to step up,” said coach Roger Atchison, noting this game was a good start for the season.
“All I want to see is hard work and the guys have to gel a bit more. I think that’s coming, we just have to play more disciplined and play a full 60 minutes.”
Next up for the Rampage is a home game against the Kitimat Ice Demons on Saturday night.
“I expect a good, hard played game and, hopefully, two points with the win,” said captain Jared Meers, adding the team will be practicing throughout the week to prepare.
“I think we’ll be focusing on the transition game, getting through the neutral zone. We’re taking everything in stride and working, as players, to get to where we need to be out of habit instead of it feeling forced.”
Around the league
The Kitimat Ice Demons started out the season on a winning note, defeating the Terrace River Kings 6-3 on Saturday night. They followed that up with a 7-3 win over the Quesnel Kangaroos on Sunday afternoon.
The defending champion Smithers Steelheads squeaked out a win in their season opener, defeating the Houston Luckies 4-3 in overtime in Houston.
The Williams Lake Stampeders and Lac La Hache Tomahawks put on an offensive showcase on Saturday night, with Williams Lake taking a 9-6 win.