The Steelheads may have lost all three games to the Terrace River Kings this year, but the playoffs are a clean slate and that was never more true than on Saturday night when the Steelheads dominated the River Kings for an 8-2 victory to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three series.
But it didn’t look good for the home team early on.
The Steelheads came out flat in the game’s first 10 minutes and the River Kings took advantage.
The visitors tallied the first 10 shots and scored the game’s opening marker on the penalty kill, when they intercepted a Steelhead’s pass, cleared the zone and caught the Steelheads flat-footed on the back-check.
River Kings forward Josh Murray took the Steelhead’s lone defender in deep behind Tyler Perreault and made a perfect, no-look pass to Rajan Sangha who was all alone out front. He buried it high glove-side on an outstretched Perreault to give the River Kings the 1-0 lead.
The goal woke the Steelheads up.
As time ticked down in the period, Terrace took their second of eight minor powerplays on the night and the Steelheads made them pay.
With less than a minute remaining in the first, Adam DeVries tapped home a rebound off a scramble in front of the net.
“It was nice to get that goal at the end of the period there,” Adam said.
“It seemed to let us reset in the intermission and that allowed us to come out and play really well at the start of the second.”
In the second period the Steelheads continued to build their momentum.
Once again, the River Kings found themselves shorthanded.
The Steelheads worked the puck around the perimetre.
Ryan DeVries took a point shot that rebounded to Ian Smith, who made a cross seam pass to Daryl Young at the right faceoff circle.
Young ripped home the go-ahead marker past a diving Dawson Kluss and the Steelheads never looked back.
Thirty seconds later, they doubled their lead when Matt Arnold stole the puck in front of the River Kings net and spun around to put it top corner.
The River Kings hung tough for the next 10 minutes, but as the second wound down, the wheels fell off.
The Steelheads scored three goals in the final five minutes to take a 6-1 lead into the final frame.
With the game out of reach, the intensity waned.
Terrace made a late charge halfway through the third, with their second goal of the game, but turned around and gave the Steelheads another powerplay, which they scored on.
In the final minutes, the Steelheads added their fifth powerplay goal of the game for the 8-2 final.
“Everyone just gave a great effort tonight,” head coach Tom DeVries said.
“Our speciality teams were excellent and that was the difference.”
Perreault wasn’t busy, but he kept the Steelheads in it in the early going, with a number of big saves in the first 10 minutes.
“He was unbelievable,” Tom said. “He held us in it there at the beginning.”
In the final 50 minutes the Steelheads out-shot the River Kings 39-18.
Staying out of the penalty box and making the River Kings pay on the powerplay was the key to winning the game.
“We did a good job of getting traffic to the net and if they clogged the lanes, then our defenceman made that extra pass to the open man,” Adam DeVries said.
Forward Al Tolmie exemplified the Steelhead’s commitment to playing a smart, disciplined game.
Twice he was elbowed in the head, but he didn’t retaliate and the Steelheads capitalized with the man advantage.
The Steelheads had eight different scorers and all 12 skaters hit the scoresheet. Needless to say, the victory was a complete team effort.
Now, they’ll travel to Terrace next weekend to try to finish off their north west rivals.
If they’re going to move on to the finals for the third time in the last three years, they’ll likely have to diversify their offence, and not count on a stream of River Kings heading to the penalty box.
“We are going to need to work the puck down low, forecheck, get traffic to the net and generate our offence from down low,” Adam DeVries said.
“Honestly, I think we’ve been at our best this season when we play five-on-five, and our powerplay hasn’t been that good, so if they stay out of the box, we’ll be alright,” Tom DeVries said.
Games two and three (if necessary) will take place in Terrace next weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
The Steelheads will be without Mike Wall, but they are expecting Spencer Brooks and Calvin Johnson to return to the lineup.