So much for the undefeated season.
The Smithers Steelheads lost their first two games of the year this past weekend, 12-7 to the Lac La Hache Tomahawks and 3-2 in overtime to the Quesnel Kangaroos.
But the scores don’t tell the whole story.
As has often been the case for the Steelheads in recent years, long road trips mean short benches, and last weekend was no different.
Due to work commitments, holidays and injuries, the Steelheads were only able to muster two forward lines and four defenceman for the trip.
On Saturday evening against the Tomahawks, they tried to let the game come to them and capitalize on turnovers.
Lac La Hache iced a far more complete team than the one that visited Smithers two weekends ago.
Early on, everything went according to plan.
The offensive minded Tomahawks threw wave after wave of attacking forwards at the Steelheads, but they kept the score close and finished the first frame tied at two.
The same story held true for the first half of the second period, but towards the end, the Tomahawks pulled ahead by two, 7-5.
Making matters worse, the Steelheads lost starting goaltender Tyler Perreault to an arm injury at the end of the second period.
In the third, the short bench caught up to the Steelheads and heavy legs led to defensive gaffs and opposition chances.
Lac La Hache added five goals in the final frame to win by a 12-7 score. Though he allowed five goals in 20 minutes, backup Steve Andrade was hardly to blame.
“We had a few things going against us, a short bench and some long travel,” defenceman Ian Smith said.
“But you never want to make excuses.”
Head coach Tom DeVries didn’t think it was as bad as the scoresheet suggested.
“I thought we were in the game the whole time. We had some great opportunities to score but we just couldn’t make it happen.”
To their credit, the Steelheads regrouped the following afternoon and did a better job of sticking to their game plan.
Once again they would put two lines and four defenceman against a full lineup, but on the plus side, starting goaltender Tyler Perreault toughed it out and got back in between the pipes.
The first period was more defence oriented than the previous night’s game. The Steelheads had their chances, but Kangaroos goaltender Ryan Manderson was equal to the task. The game was scoreless after one.
The second frame was much like the first.
The Steelheads got the better chances, and doubled the Kangaroos shot totals but couldn’t put one past Manderson.
It looked as though the two teams would head to the third period scoreless, but with 13 seconds left in the second the Kangaroos got on the board on a powerplay.
Halfway through the third the Kangaroos doubled their lead and the Steelheads’ chances of coming away from their two-game road trip with points, looked bleak.
But with three minutes left, Adam DeVries streaked out of the corner and scored shortside on Manderson to cut the lead in half.
Then, with the seconds ticking down and Perreault on the bench for the extra attacker, Darryl Young clipped Manderson’s glove as he sprawled to make a save.
The puck trickled out and went across the line, guaranteeing the Steelheads at least a point.
The Kangaroos finished the Steelheads off in overtime, but the salvaged point was well earned.
“We were expecting a good team and we got one,” Tom DeVries said.
“I thought we played much better, I won’t say we outplayed them, but that goalie was easily the player of the game.”
The Steelheads have two weeks off before travelling to Kitimat on Nov. 9 for their third straight road game.
After that it’s back-to-back home dates against the Terrace River Kings on Nov. 16 and Quesenel Kangaroos the following afternoon.
“We are hoping to get some more bodies back next weekend,” Tom DeVries said.
“So we’d like to have four lines and five to six defenceman in our lineup and get back on track.”