Hockey season is back in Prince Rupert and the Rampage kicked it off with a convincing 4-1 win over the Terrace River Kings in an exhibition game on Saturday night.
It was a thrilling game from start to finish, which the Rampage won thanks to a pair of goals from Tyler Halliday, including one on a breakaway, and some strong goaltending from Devon Gerrits and newcomer Brett Roth.
The game was high-energy right out of the gate, fast-paced with lots of action in both ends, and a big physical game with plenty of hits being thrown around.
“It feels good to know that we can compete with these guys,” said Halliday after the game. “We worked hard this offseason and got on the ice early and it really showed out there.”
Although he was pleased with how the Rampage played, Halliday said there’s still work to be done.
“There’s always places in your game that need to be worked on and improved and I think we need to do that in order to compete with this team when they do have their players, but I think we’re on the right track,” said the former Western Hockey League player.
Specifically, the six-foot forward mentioned the team needs to work on playing in their defensive zone and faceoffs.
The group did a lot of things right though, too, like wearing the River Kings out with a physical presence, which Halliday said he thought slowed them down a bit. But what he really liked was how the Rampage got the puck deep.
“Almost every chance to get the puck out of our zone, we did it tonight, which is a key component to scoring goals and good defence,” said Halliday, who is entering his second season with the team.
The River Kings, the 2016 Coy Cup silver medallists, struck first. With Halliday in the penalty box, the Kings scored on a powerplay late in the first.
But Halliday more than made up for it in the following 66 seconds with a pair of goals within 10 seconds of each other. The first goal was on a breakaway when he fired it past the goaltender and the second on a scramble in front of the goalie. Halliday tucked the puck around him and into the net to give Rupert a 2-1 lead, which it would not relinquish.
The Rampage continued to apply pressure in Terrace’s zone throughout the second period. Forward Kory Movold scored to make it 3-1 late in the period. He was second on the team last year with 22 points.
In the third period, the Rampage put Roth in net and he did not disappoint. The River Kings applied lots of pressure as the period went on, but Roth made some huge saves to keep them out. Craig Munro put one past the Terrace netminder to give Rupert a 4-1 lead.
The Rampage took seven penalties in the game, something which was a theme last season as well. The team led the league in penalty minutes last year.
In the end, Rupert looked strong in its only pre-season game, giving an enthusiastic crowd lots to cheer about, with end-to-end action throughout.
The game was a charity event, with all proceeds going to a local health care facility in memory of Frank Pyde, who co-founded and coached the Rampage. All referees and security were volunteers. Around 700 people attended the game and were loud and excited throughout.
The season opener for the Rampage is Oct. 1, when they host the Kitimat Ice Demons.
Last season was one of the better seasons Prince Rupert’s beloved hockey team has had in the past number of years. Their .469 winning percentage was the best they’ve posted since the 2010-2011 season when the Rampage won the West division by going 11-5.
With a city that comes out in full support, there’s a lot of people hoping this year will be another step forward.