The Prince Rupert Rampage finished up their regular season home schedule on a high note.
In front of a sellout crowd, the Rampage edged the Terrace River Kings 5-4 in a wild shootout to earn back-to-back weekend victories. The previous night the Rampage hammered the Kitimat Ice Demons 8-2 in Kitimat.
Before the fireworks started on Saturday, Rampage players and a season-record 1,000 fans paid tribute to returning alumni of the legendary Prince Rupert Kings.
The Kings reunion ceremony fired the team up with Jared Meers scoring off the opening draw for an early 1-0 Rampage lead. A minute-and-a-half later Josh Cook doubled their lead, 2-0.
Rampage bench boss Roger Atchison was impressed with the high energy on display by his team early on.
“[It was a] good game tonight, a good battle. [We’re] getting ready for the playoffs … It’s easier with a crowd like that tonight. With all the Kings alumni coming in it was just a special evening at the rink. [In the] last couple games we’ve been coming out pretty good, we took a couple penalties that put us back on our heels. We just went to work (after that),” said Atchison.
Rupert netminder Devon Gerrits, kept the River Kings off the board, making his saves look easy with his solid positional play.
Despite Gerrits’ heroics, River Kings’ Chapen Leblond spun at the blue line losing the Rupert backchecker then walked in and blasted home Terrace’s opening goal on the short side. More penalties ensued and undisciplined play from both teams stopped the flow of the game. The score remained 2-1 after one period of play.
Terrace started the second period on the powerplay. After a massive open ice hit delivered by Rupert’s Greg Sheppard, Rupert went back down a man, on a check-to-the-head call. However, the Rampage PK withstood the test keeping the Rupert lead.
With the Rampage infractions starting to mount, so did Terrace’s pressure in Rupert’s end.
Jean-Luc Fournier showed discipline by not retaliating after being cross-checked and put Rupert back on the PP. This would prove vital, as Cook was able to capitalize with a backhand, forehand deke, patiently waiting for the goalie to go down, and then buried it top shelf making the score 3-1.
Late in the period, Terrace sniped one back and then after a neutral zone breakdown seconds later, the puck was fired from the point and glanced off a Rampage defenceman’s skate and found its way into the net to tie things up 3-3.
The third saw much of the same as the first two periods with some hard checking, lots of neutral zone play and skilled action.
Brayden Horcoff beat his man down the left wing and shelved one far-side to take the lead for the Rampage, but the River Kings were able to tie it up halfway through the period.
Overtime decided nothing and the River Kings and Rampage headed into the shootout.
The first Rupert shooter, Kory Movold was stopped. Terrace then scored.
Rupert’s Mike Coolin was stopped. Gerrits then denied the second Terrace shooter, meaning Meers had to score to extend the game.
He did, with a nifty forehand, backhand. Gerrits made the save on the final River Kings shooter, so it was up to Cook to give the Rampage a chance to win.
He scored, and Terrace missed their last shot.
The standing-room-only crowd got exactly what they were looking for, a 5-4 Rampage victory.
Atchison said the win was big, but the team was already gearing up for a playoff run.
“We’re not done yet, we always want do a little better, but we’re just trying to peak at the right time. For playoffs, it will either be Terrace or Smithers, if we play like we did tonight, we match up well with either team. It will come down to penalties, if we play disciplined, we will be in any game.”
“Fun game to be in for sure, it was one of those games you didn’t want to end. It was exciting,” said Rampage offensive standout Horcoff.
“It was a successful [regular season]. In previous years it hasn’t been as good, but we have a pretty good squad. We had a lot of ups and downs this year, but we’re finishing the year on a high note, which means we got better as the season went on. We’re really excited for the playoffs.”
The Rampage currently sit in third place in the CIHL’s West Division with a 7-6-1 record, behind first-place Smithers and second-place Terrace.
Prince Rupert will finish off the regular season next weekend in Smithers for a double-header.
Should Smithers hold down top spot in the West after this weekend, Prince Rupert would play Terrace in a best-of-three series in the 2 vs. 3 slot.
Smithers would take on Kitimat in the 1 vs. 4 matchup. Williams Lake has earned a first round bye and Quesnel will play Lac La Hache in the East Division.