Well, nothing like kicking off the season by crushing the defending league champions and Coy Cup silver-medallists.
Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Prince Rupert Rampage in their only exhibition game of the season, as they downed their Highway 16 rival Terrace River Kings 8-3 on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 650.
“The boys are having fun,” said Rampage head coach Roger Atchison after the game.
It’s hard not to when you’re scoring on average every eight minutes in the game.
The Rampage, who found themselves with only two wins throughout the duration of last season, look primed to blow those numbers out of the water with a new-look offence, fuelled by the addition of a few Rupertites who have returned from playing junior hockey down south and one who played Western Hockey League (WHL) hockey with the Prince George Cougars and Kelowna Rockets as well as university puck with Thompson Rivers University.
Tyler Halliday, the veteran of 136 WHL games, endeared himself to Rupert fans immediately by scoring four goals and adding one assist for five points in his first game in the red and black.
“I’ve been playing with some pretty good players, so I give them all the credit. All my chances were because of them,” the winger humbly said Saturday.
Halliday highlighted a complete 60-minute team effort by the Rampage, by scoring a natural hat trick by the 14-minute mark of the second period and adding a fourth marker seven minutes into the third.
“I’ve been with [my linemates] Braydon Horcoff and Cole Atchison since August and I’ve been dryland [training] and everything like that, so I moved here in June and I wanted to contribute to the team and be a part of the community,” the Kamloops product Halliday said.
“I love playing with them. They’re hard-working guys. They like to go down low and work hard and that’s the type of player I am. We seem to click pretty well together.”
Horcoff is another addition coming from junior hockey this year, as the Rupertite played his 2014-15 season with the Junior B Beaver Valley Nitehawks of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
Cole Atchison got some games in last year with the Rampage and is in his second year with the club.
“The [new players] just add some depth. It’s just great – four lines, that’s the big thing. We have four lines that can compete with the puck and skate and it makes it pretty nice for a coach,” said Roger.
Other new faces included forward Patrick Robert, who scored the rhinos’ second goal in the first period, Jamie Schenkeveld, who notched an assist and had a rough game, being the victim of a four-minute spearing penalty by Terrace’s captain Steve Cullis, and Tyler Ostrom, who returned from playing Junior B hockey with the Osoyoos Coyotes in the KIJHL.
“Our defence kept it simple tonight. Ostrom had a pretty solid game offensively and Jean-Luc [Fournier] was a good physical presence out there and we’ve got big-boy Jamie out there. He took a few shots tonight, but he played well … We had a few guys step up. I thought Jordan Weir played great up front on the PK (penalty kill) and sniped a good one there,” said Roger.
Rampage general manager Ron German liked the amount of pressure that has been taken off previous Rampage scorers like Jared Meers, Kory Movold and Craig Munro.
“I think what it does this year, is you’re not looking for the same guy to go out and penalty kill and then have to go out and score some goals for you. That’s the biggest thing – we have a little bit of depth this year – four lines up front, anybody’s good to go at any time,” said German.
And while the team was excited they just beat the defending Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) champs by five goals, the manager remained cautiously optimistic about their chances the next time the rhinos have a shot at the River Kings with a full lineup.
“They’re no different [from us]. They have a lot of new faces and they have a few guys that are back from junior too … so it’s basically our old guys have got to match their old guys and new guys have got to match their new guys, so you’ll see a lot different Terrace team the next time they come I guarantee you that … Hopefully we can compete with them when they bring their ‘A’ game,” said German.
“They definitely had some players missing tonight.”
Horcoff broke the ice 15 minutes into the game when he roofed a shot over Terrace goalie Devon Ames’ shoulder. Robert followed that up just one minute later when he scored a simlar marker, beating a sprawling Ames from in close on the right. Then, Halliday notched his first of the game again from in tight to end the first frame 3-0 Rupert.
Terrace would threaten at the start of the second with a goal from inside the blue-line from Dawson Leblond to make it 3-1 before Halliday and Terrace’s Leblond exchanged goals to end the period – Halliday on a shorthanded breakaway and Leblond five-on-five. Halliday would add another to complete the hat trick on the power-play.
With the score 5-2 to start the third, two goals in less than a minute by Ostrom and Halliday took the game out of reach at 7-2 and Weir and Cullis exchanged goals in the last five minutes of the game to finalize the score 8-3 for the Rampage.
Rampage netminder Devon Gerrits turned aside 20 of 23 shots, while Ames stopped 17 of 25 Rupert shots.
The Rampage tallied three power-play goals and the River Kings notched one of their own.