The Steelheads earned first place in the CIHL regular season.

Steelheads face Kitimat in playoffs

The Smithers Steelheads earned first place in the CIHL regular season and face the Kitimat Ice Demons Saturday to start the playoffs.

The Steelheads have made it to the top of the Central Interior Hockey League.

In the back-to-back matches between the Steelheads and the Prince Rupert Rampage, the Steelheads won 8-6 Saturday, then went on to win again Sunday 9-4.

Saturday’s match started in the Rampage’s favour but ended with the Steelheads winning. The Steelheads’ head coach Tom DeVries loved it, calling it “probably one of the best games all year.”

“This is an exciting game,” said DeVries. “When we went to Rupert, it was like this too and we knew when they’d come here it would be an exciting game too.”

Centreman Brendan DeVries also won the scoring title with 39 points, leading by 14 points compared to second place.

The first period ended with the Steelheads down 4-2, but by the second it was close at 6-5.

The Steelheads’ fortunes reversed in the third, when Jeff Groenheyde broke a 6-6 tie.

“That was exciting, you know. When you go ahead with about six minutes left in the game, that’s an exciting thing to do,” he said. “Then you got to [hunker] down and try to win.”

With this win, the Steelheads beat out the Terrace River Kings to clinch first in the CIHL.

Sunday’s game, however, almost felt as if the Rampage had the wind knocked out of them, and DeVries attributes this to having little incentive to play hard.

“We kind of knew we already won first place and they weren’t playing for anything so I think it was just a formality here,” said DeVries. “Now we’re ready for the playoffs.”

The Steelheads will challenge the Kitimat Ice Demons Jan. 30 in Kitimat, and DeVries feels cautiously confident.

“We’re on a bit of a winning streak here, but playoffs are different and everybody comes out with their full rosters and it’s a different worlds,” said DeVries. “The best team in the NHL might not pass the first round.”