If the Rupert Rampage were worried about providing enough excitement for their 2014-15 home opener, Saturday’s tilt versus the Kitimat Ice Demons should put those thoughts to rest.
A scrappy, chippy affair saw the two evenly-matched teams force overtime in a 5-4 shootout win, with Rampage newcomer Tyler Bates providing the heroics for the hometown squad.
After overtime solved nothing, Bates was coach Roger Atchison’s first choice in the shootout. The forward skated down the middle, cut left and slid a backhand shot in between Kitimat goaltender Shahar Moudahi’s five-hole to secure the win, the Rampage’s first season-opening victory at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre since 2010.
“I kind of had it planned out,” said Bates after the game of his deke.
“I’ve been practicing it. I really only have one move, so that’s about it,” he joked.
Bates was instrumental in the Rampage even making it to extra-time.
With just over five minutes left in the game, and the Ice Demons leading the Rampage 4-3, Bates snuck in behind Kitimat’s defence with linemate Kory Movold and defenceman Marcus Atchison on a 3-on-1 break — one of their few odd-man rushes of the game.
Bates flipped the puck to Movold, who returned it in kind, and Bates didn’t miss for his first goal with the club.
“I got the puck by our blueline and I saw a guy coming to me and I just chipped it over to Movold and he moved it over to me and it was just a quick shot and it seemed to go in,” said Bates.
The equalizer sent the Rupert crowd into a frenzy.
“I was playing a bit in university … and I haven’t played hockey in about five years so it’s good to be back,” said the hero Bates.
“It couldn’t have gone any better.”
But it wasn’t smooth sailing for the club in the early-goings.
Six seconds into Kitimat’s first power-play, Ice Demons forward Ben Rumley walked into the centre slot and wristed a shot past Rupert netminder Devon Gerrits who was also playing in his first game as a starter, to give the away team the 1-0 lead.
Then, with a powerplay of their own, Rupert struck on the man-advantage with three seconds left in Kitimat’s penalty when Tom Robinson threw it on net from the left wing half-wall and Devin Palmer got a stick on it to tip the puck past Moudahi for the 1-1 tie.
More penalty trouble to Kitimat gave the Rampage the go-ahead goal on a 5-on-3 power-play as Jordan Weir found a seam through Kitimat’s defencemen and wired a shot over the shoulder of Moudahi. The first period would end 2-1 for the home team.
Not even two minutes into the second period, Movold was in alone on Moudahi. He stickhandled and deked the tender the wrong way and slid the puck in the net for the 3-1 lead but was cut in the face on the play. He was attended to and returned to action later in the period.
But then came Kitimat’s comeback. Three consecutive goals put the Ice Demons on top, starting with a marker by agitator Terry Whelan at the 8:50 mark of the second period, which led to a scrum after the whistle – one of many in the game.
Just under two minutes later, a penalty to Greg Sheppard contributed to a 5-on-3 powerplay for Kitimat and they didn’t waste any time tying the game at three.A goal coming off a goalmouth scramble by Ice Demon forward Nic Markowsky then put Kitimat up 4-3. That’s how it would stay until Bates’ goal with five minutes remaining in the game.
Rumley would score his second of the night after a beautiful cross-ice feed from point-man Brad Laeck found Rumley for the wide-open cage, once again on the powerplay. Kitimat would score three of their four tallies on the man-advantage while Rupert converted two of their four in the same fashion.
As for the shootout, it may have given the fans more than their money’s worth for the game, but it more often than not, leaves coaches with a few grey hairs.
“It’s definitely stressful. Nobody wants to lose in a shootout and this time it turned our way,” said manager Ron German, adding he may bring it up to the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) to introduce five minutes of 4-on-4 hockey, followed by five minutes of 3-on-3 should the game go to overtime, similar to what B.C. junior games and the American Hockey League are doing.
“I think the first period, we played great. I think we went with our plan and then we got into a lot of penalty trouble and you’re going to get scored on when you take penalties. It doesn’t matter who gets the penalties, somebody’s going to capitalize on that all the time,” said German.
The Rampage next play in Terrace against the River Kings on Saturday before coming back home for an 8 p.m. game on Oct. 18 against Williams Lake followed by a matinee game on Oct. 19 versus Quesnel.
Around the League
The Terrace River Kings started the season with back-to-back wins, beating Kitimat 5-1 on Friday and downing Smithers 9-4 on Saturday.
The Williams Lake Stampeders also started the season undefeated, besting the Quesnel Kangaroos 6-4 on Friday and downing Lac La Hache 6-4 on Saturday.