The Smithers Steelheads are advancing to the second round of CIHL Playoffs after holding on to win 5-3 over the Houston Luckies at the Civic Centre Saturday night.
It was all Smithers for the first period-and-a-half as the Steelheads controlled the puck for much of the first 30 minutes.
“It reminded me of the old team that went 17-0,” Steelheads’ goalie Mike Wall said.
“Everyone was skating hard, passing well.”
“The guys came out hard and that’s what we needed against this team.”
Ian Smith opened the scoring just three minutes in to the game, firing a shot over the left shoulder of Houston netminder Dave Little off a feed from Adam DeVries.
Smithers’ second goal of the game, scored by Devon Booth, came on the powerplay with 8:13 remaining in the first period.
The Steelheads went to the dressing room having accomplished exactly what they set out to do against Houston — play tough right from the opening face-off.
Shots were 21-7 in favour of Smithers after 20 minutes.
“We had lots of puck possession which is important in a game like this,” defenceman Brendan Hutchinson said.
“They always play hard, rugged, and we didn’t expect any different.”
The second period started just as the one before it, with the Steelheads dominating the play.
About seven-and-a-half minutes into the second period, Lane Perry banged home a one-timer off a feed from Mark Arnold to make it 3-0.
Just over a minute later, Ian Smith deflected Eric Smith’s point shot past Little for his second goal of the game.
But this is where the wheels almost fell off the Steelhead playoff bus.
A lack of discipline, leading to six second-period minor penalties, allowed the Luckies to score two powerplay goals in a row to make it a two-goal game heading into the third.
The surge in the last half of the period allowed Houston to close the gap in shots to 36-23 in favour of Smithers.
At six minutes into the final frame, Tyler Poznikoff put one past Wall right off the face-off to bring the game closer at 4-3.
All three of Houston’s goals were scored on the powerplay.
“They’re a good team,” Steelheads’ coach Tom DeVries said.
“We were behind the eight-ball, panicking a bit.”
In the last five minutes, the Steelheads tightened up their defence to allow very few opportunities for Houston to score.
At 17:25, Randall Groot snapped a seemingly innocuous wrist shot from just inside the blue line to beat Little and deflate any hopes the Luckies had of a comeback.
Also on Saturday night, the Kitimat Ice Demons defeated Terrace 7-4 to advance to the next round against Smithers.
Game one takes place in Kitimat on Saturday.
Kitimat, while not as physical as the Luckies, are a strong-skating team and in a short series, there’s very little room for error, Wall said.
“You never know what can happen in a three-game series.”
“It can be over quick.”