The Smithers Steelheads won’t be going for the four-peat this year after the team lost 4-3 to the Terrace River Kings in a do-or-die game on the road over the weekend.
It was a problem that plagued the team the entire season and eventually did them in: a short bench.
“We had a pretty limited lineup again,” said assistant coach Darryl Devries. “It’s a working man’s league and I’d say our top four to five players had to go out and work in the last week. That was a big loss for us.”
On Saturday, the team suited up and made the trek to Terrace with just 12 players for game two of the best-of-three series — a far cry from the full bench they had during last week’s home game.
Penalties got the team into trouble early with Devon Hayhurst taking a penalty in the first.
The River Kings wasted no time capitalizing on the powerplay with a shot from forward Jordan Peddle past netminder David Little to open the scoring.
Seven minutes later, forward Brendan Devries drew a tripping penalty and rookie Jayden Janzen beat goalie Patrick Leal to even it up.
In the second, the River Kings doubled their lead to make it 4-2, one of which was a short-handed goal.
“A lot of players from our third and fourth lines really stepped up for us and they did a great job,” said Devries.
In the end, the River Kings staved off elimination, winning 5-3 to force game three the following day.
For Sunday’s game, the return of defenceman Ian Smith helped the team out on the back end.
Coach Devries had to rely on Randall Groot on both defence and offence, starting him on the blueline, before moving him back to forward in one last push to get them on the board in the final frame.
“Playing [defence] I was just keeping it simple, and then I got to go up front the last 10 minutes and the puck bounced my way and I was able to bury my chances,” said Groot. “We almost came back.”
Their early exit from the playoffs marks the end of yet another season.
“We really develop year in and year out,” said Devries.
“The new players that come in, they develop that same energy and ways to win.”