The Smithers Steelheads pulled off two convincing wins in their doubleheader against the Prince Rupert Rampage over the weekend.
The wins put them six points behind the Terrace River Kings who currently sit in first place in the west division.
“I think we played really well. There are some things we have to work on, but it’s hard to do because we don’t have everyone here for practice,” said head coach Tom DeVries.
“These two wins are very important. You have to come in first and second place to get into the playoffs. We want to get first or second for sure.”
During Saturday night’s 8-2 victory, the Steelheads came out strong in the first against a fast-skating Rampage team.
They took a 3-0 lead in the first with forward Randall Groot netting two, and Eric Smith piling on another at 8:23 against goalie Devin Gerrits.
A few minutes into the second, Rampage winger Ben Towner managed to whistle one by netminder David Little.
But the Steelheads answered right back with Groot scoring his third of the night and his first hat trick of the season.
“It was a broken play in the neutral zone. The puck came across to me and I had a little bit of space. I didn’t take the hardest shot but I was in the right spot and it went in,” said Groot.
Keegan Jack and Jaden Janzen also found the back of the net at 3:05 and 10:46 in the second.
With just three minutes left, Kory Movald scored glove side.
Forward Calvin Johnson ended the night scoring two goals within seven seconds at the tail end of the third.
Groot’s line with brothers Adam and Brendan deVries had chemistry, generating many shots on net and scoring chances.
Linemate Adam deVries quietly put up three assists as well.
“[We’re] just moving the puck well and giving it to the open guy,” he said.
“We were keeping things simple and that’s why we got those two quick ones in the first period.”
During Sunday’s afternoon game, the Steelheads’ momentum continued with a closer 5-3 win.
The first goal came five minutes into the first with a blast from Rampage defenceman Greg Sheppard at the blueline, getting one past Mike Wall.
But their first and only lead of the weekend was shortlived with Johnson scoring his fourth goal of the season at the 7:44 mark with Ryan Green and Mark Arnold picking up the helpers.
Janzen netted his second goal of the weekend with four minutes left in the first.
The teams exchanged a pair of goals each in the second with captain Darryl Young scoring twice.
“Our line played really well yesterday, we just didn’t get any points,” said Young.
“Josh [Aspenlind] is really smart with the puck and he made a couple of passes and I made myself available to him and he got me the puck and it happened to go in.”
The Rampage battled hard, winning battles in the neutral zone and trying to overcome a one-goal deficit.
But the Groot line added to their point tally with centre Brendan deVries scoring halfway into the third.
In both games, the Steelheads generated more than 50 shots on net and had solid performances from all three defensive lines.
Wall faced 32 shots in his first game of the season.
“I felt better than I expected. They have a couple of guys who can really fire the puck,” said Wall, adding that he was able to track the puck well.
They will take on the Rampage again in a doubleheader in Prince Rupert on Saturday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec 7.