For the fourth year in a row, the Smithers Steelheads are on their way to the CIHL playoffs.
The Steelheads split weekend wins against the Kitimat Ice Demons on the road, winning Saturday’s game 7-4 before losing 8-7 on Sunday to clinch a playoff spot.
“The games really didn’t mean much in terms of the standings,” said head coach Tom Devries. “We took a casual approach to the weekend, but I still think we did really well. Kitimat seemed to be a little relaxed too.”
The Steelheads have been on a four-game winning streak since late November.
“We had a little bit of a short bench, but we played to our systems [Saturday night] a little better than we did [on Sunday] and it worked out pretty good for us,” said defenceman Ian Smith.
With only two more games left in the season (both at home against the Ice Demons and the Quesnel Kangaroos this weekend), the Steelheads will turn their sights on capturing the CIHL title for the fourth consecutive year.
With the departure of the Houston Luckies from the league earlier this season, only the top two teams in the west and east divisions move on to the playoffs.
In the east, the Williams Lake Stampeders topped the division with 26 points, followed by the Quesnel Kangaroos with 13.
Division rivals the Terrace River Kings have 24 points, while the Steelheads have 18.
In the first round of play, the Steelheads will get set to face the River Kings at home in roughly three weeks.
The Steelheads have played the River Kings four times this season, each game involving a huge number of penalty minutes.
“We’ve had some pretty good battles with Terrace, we’ve won two and they’ve won two. We had the same thing last year, so we’re excited about going at her again with them,” said Devries.
He added that in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, the team will continue to practice hard and prepare themselves for what is sure to be an intense rivalry.
“In the week before we play them, it’ll be in the back of everybody’s minds all week to play that game, so just mentally preparing for it and having a good practice,” said Devries.