Saturday saw the culmination of a season in one game for the Prince Rupert Rampage.
The boys from Prince Rupert were downed 5-2 by the Terrace River Kings on Saturday night at the Jim Ciccone Ice Arena in the 2016 playoff series opener.
The team now faces a must-win scenario going into two weekend games in Terrace, or their 2015-16 season will come to an end at the hands of the defending champs.
While the boys in black lost the game on the ice, it was the fans in black that impressed Rampage coach Roger Atchison.
“The crowd was awesome, they have been awesome all year. I thought our guys were ready to play, we got off to a good start then we got to play the whole game, we can’t play in the box.”
The fans in attendance were fired up, as most people in the arena abided by the Rampage’s wishes, and wore black, to create a “black out”.
Captain Jared Meers, Tyler Halliday, and Kory Movold started the game, and started it if off right for the home team.
With a quick pace set by the Rampage, Colten Braid from Terrace took a boarding penalty, and that encouraged Movold to score the game’s first goal. Halliday got the puck on the hash marks and found Movold back door, who opened his playoff account with an open net.
Shortly after, Halliday took two minutes in the box for roughing after retaliating after a whistle. Terrace only registered one shot on the power play and was mainly kept to the outside.
Palmer then drew a penalty for interference as he chipped the puck past the last River King defenceman.
Rupert didn’t score on the man advantage, and struggled to all night, but they gained some momentum and played more in Terrace’s end than they did to begin the game.
Penalties to each team saw some open ice play, four-on-four. With exception to the one retaliatory penalty, it was a good start for Prince Rupert as the boys kept their emotions in check and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
As the second frame started Terrace looked like they found another gear, punishing Prince Rupert with physical play. It led to the River Kings’ first goal, as Steve Cullis brushed off the Rupert defenceman, checking him behind the net and centred the puck to Ben Reinholt to make it 1-1.
After a Movold penalty for boarding, tempers were at the boiling point.
Out of almost thin air, Terrace’s Dawson LeBlond picked up the puck on the right hash-marks of the slot, and went to the short side for a 2-1 River Kings’ lead. The visitors kept up the pressure after their leading marker, but as he’s done all season Rampage goaltender Devon Gerrits answered the bell.
A couple minutes later, Halliday made a perfect pass to Meers who went short side on the Terrace tender for a beauty, on a perfectly executed two-on-one rush. Unfortunately, the next minute after a goal in hockey can be the most dangerous time for a team, and Terrace took full advantage of that. They answered shortly after a breakdown in Prince Rupert’s own zone. That made it 3-2 Terrace on a goal from Cullis.
Gerrits bailed out his team again as Cullis was all alone, but was denied by his blocker. Colten Braid put the cap on what would be a period Prince Rupert would want to forget with a fourth goal in the frame on a delayed call. It was another feed from behind the net to the front of it. That made it 4-2 at the end of two periods for Terrace.
The third was gut-check time for Prince Rupert. The athletes showed a ton of heart, and though they had chances, they couldn’t solve River Kings’ goalie Patrick Leal.
Jordan Aubee, Prince Rupert tough guy, dropped the mitts with Cory Dekelver. Aubee received seven minutes in penalties and a game misconduct, as Dekelver didn’t look like he wanted anything to do with Aubee.
After the game Jordan said, “I asked Dekelver to go, he said yes, then he turtled.”
When the fight occurred there was eight minutes left, essentially killing any chance of a Rampage come back. To their credit, the team still skated hard, and pushed the puck into the offensive zone even though they were down a man, but it wasn’t meant to be. Terrace added a late goal to make the final 5-2.
“We were down 4-2, going into the third, the seven-minute penalty didn’t really help matters. It kind of took the wind out of our sails. We were still down, but still it didn’t help on the bench,” said Atchison.
“(There were) no takeaways from the game, we just have to be better,” he said.
Additional players from the team declined interviews after the game.
The team now faces elimination and will try to win two straight games in enemy territory with a road trip to Terrace.
Game 2 is at 8 p.m. on Saturday night at the Terrace Sportsplex and Game 3, if necessary, will be Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.