The Steelheads dropped another road game this past weekend, in Terrace to the River Kings, but they did manage to take a single point from their northwest rivals, after the game ended in a shootout.
The Steelheads got off to the perfect road start, with a quick goal in the first half of the opening frame.
Josh Aspenlind received a perfect cross-crease pass from Ian Smith on the powerplay and one-timed it past River Kings’ goaltender Garret Muir.
That was the only scoring in the first.
The River Kings tied it up in the second on a shorthanded goal, just two minutes in and then took the lead five minutes later off a screened, seeing-eye point shot that went through seven players en-route to the back of the net.
Down one, the Steelheads responded with two quick goals of their own.
Darryl Young came out of the corner and slapped the puck top corner from the high slot after a vicious Josh Aspenlind bodycheck jarred the puck loose from the opposing River Kings forward.
Then, the Steelheads got their second powerplay goal of the game after Adam DeVries buried a rebound, over the outstretched blocker of Muir.
But the Steelheads couldn’t stay out of the box and they couldn’t stop the River Kings’ powerplay.
River Kings’ captain Josh Murray added his second specialty teams goal of the game in the final minute of the second period to tie the game at three heading into the third.
The River Kings then took the lead, three minutes in, on their first even strength goal of the game.
The Steelheads upped their intensity as the game wound down, and found a way to tie it up with seven minutes left.
Cody Cringan placed a beautiful shot up and under the crossbar, from a bad angle to salvage the single point.
In overtime, the Steelheads had their chances, but couldn’t put the game away.
Young had a breakaway from the Steelheads own blueline, but Muir came up big and Adam DeVries had a wide open in but hit the crossbar.
In the shootout, the first three skaters from each team missed, before Calen Findlay finally beat Tyler Perreault.
Kirk Meaver had a chance to send it to another round, but was denied by Muir, who was full value for the win.
All things considered, the Steelheads played a solid road game.
“I think we played pretty well, considering it was hostile territory, we just couldn’t get that last goal in the end,” captain Young said.
In addition to their usual short bench, many of the Steelheads players were also battling the stomach flu.
Specialty teams are still a reason for concern, but the powerplay did get back on track with two goals.
“We weren’t great on the penalty kill, we also weren’t making major mistakes either. Sometimes that’s just how it goes, but we have to be sharper for sure.”
Young singled out Aspenlind for his strong play.
“I thought he made some nice hits out there, he brought a physical presence and get got under their skin. He definitely gave us some energy and confidence, he was a key player in that game for sure.”
In spite of the Steelheads recent troubles, they’re still in first place in the West Division, depending on the outcomes of the Kitimat and Houston games last weekend.
If they can get a victory over Houston at home in two weeks time, they’ll be in a strong position to get home ice advantage heading down the stretch.
Also in the Steelheads favour, they play their next four games at home and won’t have to head out on another road trip until the final weekend of the season when they travel to Prince Rupert for back-to-back games against the Rampage.
“It’s going to be nice for us to have some time with our families on the weekends and play in front of our home crowd,” Young said.
“Hopefully we can string a few wins together, get through these uncharacteristic problems we’ve been having and finish first in the division.”
Of note: defenceman Ryan DeVries is still suffering from concussions symptoms, but does expect to play again this season.
Next game: Dec. 14 vs. Houston Luckies.