The Smithers Steelheads kicked off the 2011-2012 Central Interior Hockey League Season last Saturday night at the Smithers Civic Centre Arena, facing off against the Terrace River Kings. At the end of 60 minutes of quality hockey action, the Steelheads had racked up their first win of the season, beating Terrace 4-3.
Some roster and management changes appear to have worked well for the team, after finishing last year with a heartbreaking East Division series loss to the Williams Lake Stampeders. During the final game in that series, Mike Wall switched from wing and defence to goaltending; he had spent a decade in net for several WHL and AHL teams, as well as one season playing for the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL. This year has also seen a change in management, with new head coach Tom DeVries, and Steve Graf taking over the duties of club president.
At Saturday’s game, the Steelheads came out strong, keeping most of the action in the River Kings zone. Eight minutes into the first period, both teams had already combined for half a dozen penalties. Terrace’s David Tooms scored the first goal of the game, despite shots on goal weighing heavily in of Smithers. A few minutes later, just past the 10 minute mark, Ian Smith scored unassisted for Smithers, and half a minute later, the Steelheads took the lead after Randall Groot put another one past Terrace’s Patrick Zeal, with the assist going to Adam DeVries and Stu Barnes.
The second period began with both teams trading end and the occasional penalty; with Wall pulled and Smithers with a two man advantage, still no goal was scored. Less than a minute later, at 6:44, Ryan DeVries pulled out of the pack to score unassisted, putting the Steelheads up 3-1. Later in the second period, River King Josh Murray took an assist from Skylar Andrews to bring Terrace within a point of tying the game. Both teams spent much of the game killing power plays and occasional two man advantages.
After the break, Terrace came out fighting, and Tristan Murray tied the game less than a minute into the third period. With just over 12 minutes left on the clock, Adam DeVries took a pass from Spencer Brooks and Stu Barnes, and the Steelheads were in the lead again. Despite some close calls, Smithers managed to hold on to the lead, winning their first game of the season 4-3. In the meantime, 62 minutes of penalties were handed out in 60 minutes of hockey.
The Steelheads are at home for a double header next weekend. On Saturday, Smithers hosts the Williams Lake Stampeders, the team that knocked them out of contention for the championship last year. That game starts at 7:30 p.m. At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, the Steelheads will face the Lac La Hache Tomahawks, one of two new teams in the CIHL.