The Prince Rupert Rampage were looking for their fourth straight win against the Kitimat Ice Demons on Saturday night and picked up the two points in convincing fashion against a team that sits atop the Central Interior Hockey League Western Conference standings.
The Ice Demons controlled the play in the opening minutes, including two great shorthanded opportunities, but Rampage netminder Warren Hanson turned away everything that came his way. He then kept the game scoreless with a big breakaway save with 13 minutes on the clock. After withstanding Kitimat’s offensive flurry, Prince Rupert’s Brock Ward opened the scoring by chipping a loose, rolling puck over the glove of Brett Vilness. The Demons had their opportunities to tie things up, including a five-on-three powerplay with 3:30 on the clock, but it would be the Rampage’s Kory Movold who lit the lamp next when he put a backhander from his knees between the pads of Vilness with 50 seconds left. The goal would be the last of the period and Prince Rupert took a 2-0 lead into the second frame.
The Rampage wasted no time in picking up where they left off at the start of the second. Devin Palmer picked up the puck just outside the Kitimat zone and, after dekeing out both defenders, slid the puck across the Vilness’ pads and into the bottom corner of the net just 51 seconds into the period for Prince Rupert’s third goal of the game. As Hanson continued to shine in net for Prince Rupert, Greg Sheppard put the Rampage up by three when he went coast-to-coast from behind his own goal and fired a wrister over Vilness’ glove with 12:07 to play. That would prove to be the final nail in the coffin for Vilness on this night as he was pulled in favour of backup Tom Mildenberger following the goal. Kitimat finally got on the board less than a minute later when Josh Slanina put a puck on net from a bad angle and it somehow squeezed between Hanson and the post. Despite a lot of back and forth play, there would be no more scoring in the period as Prince Rupert took a 4-1 lead into the third.
The final frame was a hard fought, evenly played affair — until the final minutes when the Ice Demons took a pair of penalties to give Prince Rupert a 5-on-3 powerplay with 2:03 to go. With 1:19 on the clock, Movold scored his second on the game with a shot from the side of the net that hit some bodies and jumped over the pads of Mildenberger and, adding a bit of insult to injury, Jordan Weir lobbed a weak shot at the net from the top of the circle that found its way past Mildenberger with one second left to play. When the final buzzer sounded, the Rampage saluted the hometown crowd and celebrated a 6-1 victory over Kitimat.
“This really showed what coach Roger Atchison has been working on all season. The team is playing the system and playing as a team. The individualism is kept to a minimum and it is paying off … the plan was to stick to the system, get the puck in deep and keep up the pressure,” said team president Ron German, who was behind the bench for the game.
“The team is really starting to gel. The lines are staying the same, we’re coming together to play as a team and there is a lot of talking out on the ice now, which helps,” said Palmer.
The Rampage will travel to Terrace on Saturday to play the Terrace River Kings, a team that has won four of their last five games, and both German and Palmer expect a tough battle when the teams hit the ice.
“With Terrace, we are going to have to work harder. It’s been a while since we have played that team and they have changed what the team does and how they play in the past … they’re playing good, fast, clean hockey. They’re going to be a tough team to beat,” said German.
“They’re playing good hockey, but we’re going to keep playing the same game we play. Our dump and chase is awesome right now, and if we keep to the system we’re going to come out on top every time,” said Palmer.
Around the league
The Terrace River Kings traveled to the Cariboo over the weekend, splitting games against the Lac La Hache Tomahawks and the Williams Lake Stampeders. The Kings opened the road trip with an 8-3 win over Lac La Hache, but lost 6-5 the next day against the Sampeders.
The Houston Luckies were to make the same road trip, but mechanical issues with the team bus forced those games to be rescheduled.