The Prince Rupert Rampage ran into some stiff competition this weekend in their lone home match-up against the West Division-leading Smithers Steelheads.
The boys from Prince Rupert came out strong, setting the tone to start the game and keeping the puck in Smithers’ end.
But the home side couldn’t sustain their strong play from early in the game and an unravelled third period proved to be the rhinos’ downfall, losing 6-3 Saturday night.
An early Rupert penalty to Jared Davis and then a Smithers penalty led to some four-on-four action. Whether it’s loose play, extremely tight checking, laziness, or just really tight reffing, every game at the Jim seems to have less and less flow with 20 to 30 penalties being called each game. This contest had 20.
Rampage goaltender Jordan Vanderwiel was electrifying all night. He kept the game deadlocked at zeros as the game opened up.
Rupert’s Mike Coolin hit the post and then Smithers hit the post. With bouts of sustained pressure from both teams to open the game, Cook got checked into the boards awkwardly, but with no call he was upset and took an unsportsmanlike penalty for talking back to referee David Belling.
Cook’s cut was split wide open and he went to the dressing room for stitches, but returned to the game. Smithers went to the power play and generated some chances, but so did Rupert short-handed.
Rampage forward Craig Munro had a solid game, and took the puck hard to the net and drew a penalty for tripping.
The man-advantage was short-lived as Rupert’s Tyler Halliday took a penalty for interference.
Vanderwiel continued to play well and made a couple key stops short side on the penalty kill.
With the late offensive zone pressure, Smithers was able to bury one late to take a 1-0 lead after one period.
The second period started much as the first did with Rupert taking it to Smithers with the body, disrupting their breakout.
This paid immediate dividends as Smithers turned the puck over at their blueline to Jared Meers who shot it and Kory Movold got the rebound. He quickly went shelf with it to tie the affair 1-1.
The Steelheads immediately went to the power play again and created several grade-A chances in the slot only to be thwarted by Vanderwiel: with a Dominik Hasek-esque stop going from side to side on his back, stopping the puck with his blocker. The crowd and bench went crazy.
After a big hit by Rupert defenceman Jean-Luc Fournier, the boys found their legs again and started to push back through Coolin, Cole Atchinson and Devin Palmer’s line. Creating turnovers in the opposing team’s zone always helps.
The momentum took a hit though, as Cook took a charging penalty and Rupert was back on the penalty kill and in reactive mode. However, Vanderwiel did his thing in net to successfully kill off the penalty.
Then, a late penalty to the Steelheads for kneeing put the rhinos back on the power-play. This is where the game changed.
After a give-away at the Smithers blueline on the power play, Fournier chased the puck back into the neutral zone and with the Smithers player coming from in front of him a few feet away from the boards, Fournier took the body and his opponent went awkwardly into the boards.
It was one of those bang-bang plays that ended up worse for the Smithers player who had to leave the game and go to the hospital. It wasn’t a malicious looking-check but Fournier was assessed a match penalty for charging and a game misconduct on the play.
“[Our] compete level was as good as it gets tonight. The penalty was no big deal on Jean-Luc, I thought we could kill it. But the five-on-three killed us,” said coach Roger Atchison.
“I didn’t feel like there was any intent to injure from Jean-Juc, it was just a quick play and he should have backed off him. It will probably get reviewed. [We had] two good periods … other than that four minute-spell, it was a good game.”
Rupert opened the third frame having to kill off the five-minute major. After some more minors were called, Smithers capitalized on four-on-three hockey after a cross-ice pass from Brendan DeVries to Lach Davies made it 2-1 Smithers.
On a very similar play seconds later, Davies buried it again and was the beneficiary of another cross ice pass this time on a two-on-one. Smithers broke away 3-1. Still on the powerplay from the major, Mark Arnold scored for Smithers extending the lead to 4-1.
After another marker from the Steelheads made it 5-1 and having lifted Vanderwiel from duty, Jarrod Hildebrandt was pressed into action right away, turning away a half-breakaway.
Rampage defenceman Tyler Ostrom let go with a bomb from the point, and Brayden Horcoff made no mistake burying the rebound, 5-2. Later, Movold made it 5-3 with a tip in after a smart pass from Halliday coming down the left wing.
But it was too little too late for the Rupert boys, as Smithers scored an empty-netter. The final score ended 6-3 Smithers.