It was a rough and tough end to the regular season for the Smithers Steelheads this weekend, capturing their second consecutive Lightning Cup after destroying the Hazelton Wolverines 10-1 at the Smithers Civic Center.
“It feels great, we’re super excited,” said Steelheads captain Darryl Young. “I feel like we’re on a good roll, obviously heading into the playoffs so this is where is counts now.”
Although there was nothing riding on this game — the Steelheads already secured a spot in the playoffs and the Wolverines’ 1-15-1 record sent them to the golf course early — it was still as intense as it gets.
The Steelheads came out flying.
They quickly put the pressure on Hazelton and put up two points early in the first period. It was clear that the Wolverines were not working as a unit; missing passes, sloppy breakouts and weak defense contributed to a slow and painful loss. Wolverines Captain Al Tolmie was one of the only noticeable assets on the ice, but with no other outlets his efforts went unrewarded. By the end of the first period the Steelheads lead 3-0.
Then five minutes into the second the Steelheads made it 4-0, with no signs of letting up. Early on in the second the tension on the ice was building, after a scuffle in front of the Hazelton net that sent two Wolverines and two Steelheads to the box.
Not long after, Steelheads forward Randall Groot laid a huge hit on Hazelton’s Mitch Marshall, which resulted in a two-handed slash from Marshall as he scrambled to his bench. Subsequently Groot delivered a crosscheck to the neck and Marshall went down hard. After the dust cleared there were a number of ejections. Randall Groot was handed a match penalty for the actions.
Resuming in the third the Wolverine’s bench looked pretty empty, with only one sub available. However, the remaining squad kept pushing and when a sloppy clear from the Steelheads resulted in a turnover, the Wolverines capitalized and finally put one up on the board with six minutes remaining.
Though it wasn’t enough and the Steelheads finished the regular season with a spotless record, 18-0, showing signs of their dominance with a 61-61 shot ratio. Next up will be the Prince Rupert Rampage to start their run for the Coy Cup.
Head Coach, Tom DeVries attributes much of the team’s success to the tight unity that was build between players and coaches early on in the season, which will surely pay off in the post season.
“All of our players are very well balanced, they all work hard. In every position, every place from goal tending to defense and forwards,” DeVries said. “Obviously playoffs is a totally new season, you’re 0-0. So teams play harder, they come with all their best players and it’s going to be a battle, it will be really tough, it will be fun.”
The Steelheads will now travel to Prince Rupert to take on the Rampage for the first round of the playoffs Jan. 26. Steelheads will be at home Feb. 4.
** An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mitch Marshall of the Wolverines was given a game misconduct. We apologize for the error and will issue a correction in our next print issue as well.