The Smithers Steelheads are off to a strong start in 2013-14, after consecutive wins over their rivals from Houston to open the season.
The second game between the Luckies and the Steelheads began much like the first one finished: chippy, tight and even.
Perhaps it was a case of nerves in their first home game of the year, but the Steelheads looked flat for the opening 40 minutes before coming on in the final frame.
At the 10 minute mark of the first, the Steelheads had what should have been their first goal, called back when a Luckies’ defenceman knocked the net off its moorings.
For the better part of the first, the Steelheads outshot and out chanced the Luckies but were held in check by Luckies’ netminder Brock Henrickson.
On the other end, the Steelheads had a few defensive breakdowns, allowing the Luckies multiple odd-man rushes, but goaltender Tyler Perreault made a few bigs save to keep the game even.
It was scoreless after one, with the Steelheads outshooting the Luckies 14-12.
The second was more of the same: scrappy, hard-nosed, back and forth. But the Luckies got themselves into penalty trouble in the second period and the Steelheads capitalized.
Ian Smith buried his second of the season, after Adam DeVries and Stu Barnes forechecked hard, dug the puck out of the end-boards and slid it to him, two feet in front of the net.
Minutes later, Adam DeVries doubled the Steelheads’ lead off a tipped point shot.
The second period finished with the Steelheads up 2-0 on the scoreboard and 27-23 in shots. The Luckies could have easily been tied or down by one had it not been for the strong play of Perreault.
The Steelheads had yet to bring their A-game, but the third period was a different story; it looked like two different teams had shown up.
Smithers came out flying. They held the puck in the Luckies’ zone for long stretches of time.
Halfway through the period they scored their third goal of the game when former Hazelton Wolverine Amadee Marshall tipped home a point shot for his first as a Steelhead.
As the period went on, the Steelheads upped their level of play. Henrickson kept it respectable.
With the Luckies on the penalty kill, halfway through the third, Henrickson committed grand larceny on forward Ian Smith, who received a pass from Marshall in the low slot. With a yawning cage and a sure goal on his stick, Smith tapped the puck into the sprawling glove of Henrickson who came three feet across to make the highlight-reel save.
But the Steelheads kept pressing. They buried any hope of a Luckies’ comeback when captain Daryl Young and Calvin Johnson finished off a two-on-one to give the Steelheads a four-goal lead.
In the game’s dying seconds, Kirk Meaver scored on a breakaway to put an exclamation point on the Steelheads best period of the young season, becoming the second first-time goal scorer of the evening.
The Steelheads out-shot the Luckies 15-4 in the third and 42-27 overall.
“That third period was our best period of the season so far,” head coach Tom DeVries said.
“We controlled the puck a lot and we had a whole lot of shots. That seems to happen to us a lot. We play tight with teams for the first and second, then pull away in the third.”
Defenceman Ryan DeVries was a stalwart on the back end, logging 20 plus minutes of ice time and adding an assist.
“We played a good game,” Ryan DeVries said. “We have 10 good forwards, six good defenceman and three good goalies, so its not hard to create offence when you are so talented.”
Perreault, subbing in for the absent Mike Wall, held the team in during the first 30 minutes when the Steelheads had trouble getting on the scoreboard. He was full value for the 27 save shutout in his first game of the season.
“Our goalie, Tyler Perreault was excellent for us. If he hadn’t made some saves, it could have been 4-4 pretty easily,” Ryan said.
Up next for the Steelheads, back-to-back visits from two of the league’s upper echelon teams.
Lac La Hache comes to town on Saturday night followed by the Kitimat Ice Demons on Sunday afternoon.
“Lac La Hache usually has a pretty solid team, we don’t see them much, and Kitimat is always tough to beat,” Tom DeVries said. “They’ve got a core group of guys that have been together for years, they’re always scary.”