The Smithers Steelheads are one step closer to the CIHL championships after beating the Houston Luckies at the Smithers Civic Centre Arena last Saturday night, winning the second in a row to take a best of three series.
The action was fast, physical and at times a bit sloppy on Saturday, as the Steelheads and Luckies pounded their way through a penalty-heavy first period. Before the first 20 minutes were up, Houston’s Cole Hasell had been ejected from the game, and Smithers had failed to score on Houston’s Don Kenzle after five power plays.
The story was much the same over the next two periods, but with far fewer penalties, as the Steelheads hammered away to no avail by the time the final buzzer sounded.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Houston, they came out with a really good road game,” said Smithers head coach Gord Young.
The Luckies were short a few players, but fought hard despite the handicap, and Luckies goalie Don Kenzle stopped 42 shots by the 60 minute mark.
The Steelheads offence had to work hard to find clear shots past Houston’s defence, and even once they did, “it was really hard to score on Kenzle,” said Young. “We had to fight through a bit of adversity, but it’s good for us to do that.”
Although both teams seemed to have worn themselves out by the end of the third, players hit the ice with renewed energy in sudden death overtime. The puck was split between both ends, but with 2:34 remaining in the 10 minute overtime, Adam Devries found a hole in Kenzle’s net, and the series went to Smithers.
After winning consecutive games against Burns Lake, the Williams Lake Stampeders will be the Steelheads’ next challenge. In their last matchup, to close out the regular season, Smithers and Williams Lake split two games with a win each. Young said the Steelheads will have to keep up a solid defence to beat the Stampeders.
“It’ll be a lot tighter game. They’ve got guys that will score if they can get through,” he said.
The Stampeders will host the Steelheads next Saturday, with both teams playing in Smithers on Saturday, February 12, and a possible third game on Sunday, February 13.
In CIHL’s West Division, the Kitimat Ice Demons beat the Terrace River Kings, and they’ll be playing the Prince Rupert Rampage for the Division title, after the Rampage beat the Hazelton Wolverines.