The losing streak is over.
Two hard fought road games garnered the Steelheads three out of a possible four points this past weekend.
They lost in overtime to the Prince Rupert Rampage, 5-4 on Saturday night, before rebounding the following afternoon with a dominating 5-2 win over the Kitimat Ice Demons.
The Steelheads coaching staff knew that if they were going to bump the slump it would take a total team effort and an alteration of their style of play.
With only seven forwards and four defenceman making the trip, they opted to take a more wait-and-see approach, allowing the other teams to come to them.
“We played a bit of a conservative game,” said assistant coach Darryl DeVries, who was filling in for his father, Tom, on the road trip. “There were a few times we got running around a bit too much, but we tried to hold back a bit.”
For the most part, the strategy worked.
Heading into Prince Rupert on Saturday night, the Steelheads formed two lines, one loaded with all of their offensive firepower: Darryl Young, Ian Smith and Ryan DeVries, the other a more defence first, checking unit comprised of Randall Groot, Ryan Green, Phil Morrison and Cody Sutherland.
Early on it looked like the losing trend would continue.
Jordan Aubee put the Rampage up 1-0 after the first and Craig Munro scored early in the second to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
Starting goaltender Steve Andrade was forced to leave the game with an injury, forcing backup Tyler Perreault into emergency duty.
But in the second the Steelheads’ top line connected for three in a row to put the road team up by two heading into the final frame.
Adam DeVries had two in the period, to bring his team leading total up to seven on the year.
The Rampage weren’t done though.
In the third period, the Steelheads tightened up defensively and barely allowed the Rampage to enter the offensive zone.
They were able to hold them to six shots in the third, but had trouble containing Munro. He scored his second of the game to tie it at three, and almost won it for the Rampage on a shorthanded breakaway, but Perreault was equal to the task.
With five minutes left, the Rampage scored the go-ahead goal on a wrist shot through a crowd from just inside the blueline, but less than a minute later Ian Smith scored on a dump in that was mishandled by Rampage goalie Keano Wilson.
With a point apiece, the two teams headed for overtime.
In the extra frame, games, the ref called a penalty, away from the play, to put the Steelheads down a man.
The Rampage capitalized halfway through off a Brock Ward, cross-ice one-timer and the losing streak continued.
“It was a bit of a questionable call,” DeVries said. “Their guy fell and that’s all the ref saw, but what can you do?”
The next afternoon in Kitimat against the Ice Demons, the Steelheads finally managed to end the streak.
They stuck to their conservative system and barely allowed the Ice Demons to gain the offensive zone all game long.
Tyler Perreault got the nod, after a solid performance in game one.
In the first, the two teams battled to a scoreless draw, with neither side generating much offence.
The Steelheads’ checking line did an admirable job of shutting down the Ice Demons’ best skaters, allowing the first line to catch fire in the second and third periods.
Adam DeVries, Darryl Young and Ian Smith combined for four goals and 10 points in the final 40 minutes, and Eric Smith added an unassisted goal, to give the Steelheads and seemingly insurmountable 5-0 lead.
After letting leads slip in a few different times over the course of the losing streak, the Steelheads made sure they kept up their strong defensive play.
Kitimat couldn’t generate many chances and the few times they did, Perreault shut the door.
In the game’s final minute, the Ice Demons scored twice to ruin the shutout bid, but after more than a month of losing, the Steelheads will take the two points.
“It felt really good to get that win,” DeVries said. “Everyone was really excited. It’s tough to have a losing streak like that, but our team never got down on themselves. We have confidence in ourselves and we know that we always have a chance to win.”
After a month with only three points to their name, the Steelheads are still in a relatively good position to challenge for first place in the West Division.
If they can win their next two – a road game in Terrrace Nov. 30 and a home game against Houston on Dec. 14 – they could be back where they belong: in first place, right before the Christmas break.