With a valiant year under their belts, winning the regular season in the west division in the CIHL, the Rupert Rampage had their chances of playing for the Coy Cup dashed by the Hazleton Wolverines on Feb. 18.
In the second game of the best-of-three series, having beaten the Ramage 6-4 just the night before in Hazelton, the Wolverines bested the west division favourites again 4-3 in overtime.
The Prince Rupert team, dressed in their black jerseys, looked as slick as the ice they entered on, scoring the first goal just six minutes into the first period.
The Wolverines showed their bite, scoring two, then taking a 3-1 lead as the second period commenced. The game was a snippy one, with the Rampage fighting back in the last period of regulation tying it 3-3 before the buzzer sounded.
In the scheduled 10-minute sudden-death overtime, the winner was determined within two minutes as Hazelton scored in the upset of the season.
Rupert finished the regular season 12-4-0-0 to secure first place in the division by three points over the Terrace River Kings while Hazleton only won seven of their 16 games for fourth place and had to qualify to play Rupert by defeating the winless Kitimat Ice Demons 12 - 6 in a playdown.
Meanwhile, second-place Terrace was up against the third-place Smithers this weekend to determine who will take on the Wolverines for the west division title.
Rampage coach Roger Atchison said the season had been a great one for the team.
“The season itself, from start to now, was really good. The players, the community, everyone — it was just a great success, other than the last two games. We just couldn’t get anything going against this team here.”
“The game was tied. We were just fighting everyone tonight and when you’re fighting everyone, it’s just — I don’t what to say.”
He said it will be a long time off for the players since the next season doesn’t start until October 2023. While players don’t age out, he said more than likely, they will lose a few team members as it will be their last year or from players moving away.
“This was a good team to have,” Atchison said.
Wolverines coach, Stu Barnes, wrapped up the game by describing it as “a hard battle”.
“There were two good teams out on the ice — the number one team in the league and us coming in fresh off the wildcard win.”
“[Rampage] came back in the third. There were no goals scored in the second. So I think maybe in the third, obviously, they turned it around. But then in overtime, we picked it up with a late penalty and that helped us get some momentum into the overtime and get a couple of shots and rebound.”
The Wolverines have been building chemistry all year long and now you can see the fruition of all that work, Barnes said. “We’ve been saying all year long we were playing for the playoffs, trying to get as many people in to have a pool to pick from.”
“We think we’ve got a good team that can go a long way in the playoffs and hopefully on to the Coy Cup.”
As for the next move for the team, Barnes said they are looking to build off this year and obtain some more local talent.
“We really just try to make role models for our new rink and all our young children.”