This weekend was the tale of two games for the Prince Rupert Rampage.
After losing 6-2 in Kitimat on Friday, the boys came back to Prince Rupert with a vengeance. This high flying, competitive hockey was on display Saturday night at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.
The Rampage jumped all over the Kitimat Ice Demons in the first period, as Pat Robert snuck around two defenders to get to the slot and snuck the puck five hole through the Kitimat goaltender. Josh Cook continued the gritty play with a spectacular Ovechkin-esque goal. After almost losing the puck and falling to the ground, Cook was still able to go top shelf with the puck, where mama keeps the cookies.
The period ended with the Rampage leading 2-1. Coach Roger Atchison instituted a strong game plan with a hard forecheck, which led to Kitimat turnovers in the neutral zone.
It was clear that tonight would be different than Friday. The buzz in the arena (which was filled almost to capacity) led to a great atmosphere. The first period would be a pre-cursor to how the game would finish.
The second period held much of the same for the boys in white. Devin Palmer, after some hard work forechecking, made his own luck and was able to corral the puck and lift it above the goaltender’s left shoulder. Continuing the hard-nosed play Thomas Robinson was able to put the seed of doubt into the Kitimat defenders minds, as his crushing body checks were seen all over the ice. Jean-Luc Fournier delivered one of the most crushing blows after lining up a Kitimat winger as they tried to break out and was able to crunch him against the side boards, putting him horizontal with the ice.
Then the flood gates opened. Palmer was again able to squeeze in behind the D and did the old fore-hand, back-hand shelf job, making it 6-2. The goal almost ended the Kitimat goalie’s night. His night would be ended a couple minutes later, as the Rampage continued to pile on with a beauty tip by Greg Sheppard, and another break-away goal from Craig Munro. The 2nd period ended with a score of 8-2.
With the game nearly out of reach for Kitimat, it started to get chippy. The beginning of the third period saw a lot of big hits, a fight and some more end to end play.
Although the result of the game was no longer in question, Rupert and Kitimat both scored in the third, with Cole Atchison of the Rampage and Brad Lueck and Ben Rumley finding the back of the net for a 9-4 final.
“I think the fans left with their money’s worth,” Atchison said.
“It was a real team effort. I know that’s a cliche, but it was line after line of relentless forecheck. Lines 1-4 were able to keep the energy up.”
Atchison spoke about the depth of his team this year.
“We picked up five new guys, and a few guys are also in the stands tonight. We have guys competing for jobs in practice, we have some numbers, it sure helps,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries of this playing time was Tyler Halliday, who chipped in with a goal and 21 penalty minutes.
“We bounced back from yesterday’s game, we didn’t show up to play. This was a whole different team today and we protected our barn. We don’t lose here,” he said.
“As a team we feed off each other, we have been working on the forecheck.”
Devon Gerrits had a very strong game in goal for Prince Rupert, stopping 21 of 24 shots. His composure early on helped take the pressure off when the game was tight.
“They wanted to hold first place in the league,’ which is where they sit after Saturday’s result,” said Halliday.
The Rampage’s next game is Oct. 24 at home, against the Terrace River Kings.