The Rupert Rampage scored three goals in less than three minutes to climb back from a three-goal deficit but it wasn’t enough as the Williams Lake Stampeders doubled up the Rampage 6-3 in CIHL action on Saturday.
Despite the Stamps taking a 3-0 lead after the first period, the Rampage (7-6-1) tied the game at 3-3 early in the second, to the delight of a full house at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, after scoring a trio of goals in 2:51.
But Williams Lake (11-3) responded right away with a goal to take the lead and the Rampage couldn’t quite get another tying goal, despite plenty of pressure the rest of the game.
The Stampeders came into town as the top team in the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL), but Jared Meers thought the home team did a good job keeping pace with them.
“I feel that given another chance playing against them, in the finals if we get there, we’re going to give them lots of trouble. If we play a 60-minute game, we’re hard for any team in this league,” the Rampage captain said.
Aside from a rough first period that had the team staring down a three-goal-deficit, he was happy with how the team played.
“We were moving our feet quite a bit in the second and third periods, we weren’t giving them too much room to breathe. If we would have sustained that pressure the whole game, I think we would have won,” Meers said.
The Rampage got off to a good start, putting pressure on Williams Lake in their zone and firing shots on goal, but the momentum shifted about halfway through the period with the Stamps’ first goal, scored by David Gore.
Two minutes later, the visiting team scored again and then Nathan Zurak made it 3-0 with one minute to play with his league-leading 21st goal of the season.
But there was plenty of hockey still to play, and the Rampage rallied in the dressing room between periods.
“Just wake up, let’s get out there. There’s 700 fans who paid good money to come watch us and we want to play our hearts out for them,” Meers said.
And wake up they did. In the first minute of the period, Kale Burns notched his second goal of the season, but that was just the beginning. Tyler Halliday tapped another one past Williams Lake goalie Justin Foote to pull the team within one.
The crowd went wild just over a minute later when Foote misplayed the puck behind his own net. Meers grabbed the puck and wrapped it around the net, lifting it over Foote’s diving stick to tie the game at 3-3.
But the elation wouldn’t last for long, as the Stampeders retook the lead only 23 seconds later, putting one past Devin Gerrits.
The Rampage put themselves in a tough position late in the period, thanks to a couple penalties, including a five-minute major by Jordan Aubee. The rhinos were forced to kill off a full two-minute 5-on-3 and then another two minutes of Aubee’s penalty, but despite an array of opportunities for the Stamps, Gerrits shut them out, keeping the game close.
In the final frame, the Rampage continued to apply lots of pressure in the Stampeders’ zone, but Foote stonewalled them. Williams Lake extended its lead to 5-3 around halfway through and then potted an empty-net goal to make it 6-3.
The Rampage next host the Smithers Steelheads on Saturday night. The puck drops at 7 p.m.