The Steelheads returned from their first game of the playoffs this weekend with a key road victory under their belts, though they were probably a little worse for wear on Sunday morning.
On Saturday afternoon it looked like the Steelheads might not make it to Kitimat to play the first game in the best-of-three series with the Ice Demons.
The Hwy. 16 road closure left them stuck for three hours.
They eventually made it, though the puck didn’t drop until 10 p.m.
That extra time on the bus may have left the Steelheads a little sluggish to start the game, as Kitimat jumped out to a 1-0 lead just four minutes in, on a goal by Ben Rumley.
The home team held the early play, and looked to build on their lead, but the Steelheads got a lucky goal off an Eric Smith dump-in, that deflected off the end boards and ricocheted off the back of unsuspecting Ice Demon’s goalie Brett Vidness and into the net.
It was tied at one apiece after the first period.
In the second, both teams got away their defensive postures and the game opened up.
The Steelheads took the lead on a Mark Arnold breakaway goal at the three-minute mark, before the Ice Demons came back with two of their own.
It looked like the Steelheads would head into the third down a goal, but Mark Arnold got loose behind the play, received an outlet pass from Mike Wall and scored his second breakaway goal of the game, to pull the Steelheads even.
The game had all the makings of an even, last goal wins, but the Steelheads had other ideas.
They scored three goals in quick succession in the first five minutes of the period to build an insurmountable lead on their stunned opponents.
Adam DeVries got things rolling, streaking down the wing, beating the last Ice Demon’s defender and ripping one home past Vidness. He score his second just over a minute later, on a nicely timed seam pass from Phil Morrison at the side of the net.
Randall Groot sealed the victory on the powerplay off a nice, tic-tac-toe passing play with Ryan and Adam DeVries.
For head coach Tom DeVries, the key to the victory was staying out of the box.
“We were one of the league leaders in penalties this year, which was a little surprising,” head coach Tom DeVries said.
“They have some explosive players and an excellent powerplay, so we did our best to stay out of the box, which we did.”
The Steelheads gave up four powerplays and killed them all off.
Goaltender Tyler Perreault was full value for the win.
“He was fantastic,” DeVries said. “He made some big saves, he’s playing well and composed right now. His game looks solid.”
Once again, the Steelheads had a short bench for the trip, with only eight forwards and two defence pairings to go up against a full Ice Demons roster.
DeVries expects to have his full bench when the Steelheads try to take the series over the Ice Demons on Saturday night at the Civic Centre.
“We’ve been shorthanded on the road all year, but it seemed like the guys were playing with more energy.
“I guess playoffs will do that. We should have a few regulars back in the lineup for the next game, though.”
DeVries doesn’t expect to change much heading into game two.
If the Steelheads can finish off the Ice Demons on Saturday, they might have an easier road into the finals than they initially imagined.
The first place Terrace River Kings lost their opening game to the Prince Rupert Rampage.
Terrace will have to win two straight at home this weekend if they hope to advance to the next round of the CIHL playoffs.
In other CIHL news, the Houston Luckies upset the Quesnel Kangaroos in their first game of the playoffs and Williams Lake eked out a one goal victory over Lac La Hache.
All CIHL series continue with two games this weekend.
Steelheads game two begins at the usual 7:30 start time on Saturday night, game three (if necessary), takes place on Sunday afternoon at one o’clock at the Smithers Civic Centre.