Steelheads take top spot in CIHL east

After an exciting double header last weekend, the Smithers Steelheads have finished off the regular season by winning the Lighting Cup, awarded to the top team in the CIHL East Division. The Steelheads and the Williams Lake Stampeders took a game apiece, with a stellar performance by Stampeders goaltender Justin Foote.

  • Jan. 19, 2011 12:00 p.m.
Smithers Steelhead Randall Groot takes a shot on Williams Lake Stampeders goalie Justin Foote during last Saturday’s home game at the Smithers Civic Centre Arena

Smithers Steelhead Randall Groot takes a shot on Williams Lake Stampeders goalie Justin Foote during last Saturday’s home game at the Smithers Civic Centre Arena

After an exciting double header last weekend, the Smithers Steelheads have finished off the regular season by winning the Lighting Cup, awarded to the top team in the CIHL East Division. The Steelheads and the Williams Lake Stampeders took a game apiece, with a stellar performance by Stampeders goaltender Justin Foote.

Saturday night’s game started out with a goal for the Stampeders, but Smithers quickly rebounded, scoring three within a five minute window to take a 3-1 lead. Williams Lake started out the second period with a quick goal, but two back-to-back Steelheads goals, only seconds apart, turned into a 5-2 lead for Smithers at the end of the second. Halfway through the third, Williams Lake mounted a comeback effort, scoring one and pushing hard. A fourth goal in the last minute of play wasn’t enough for the tie, with Smithers picking up a 5-4 victory.

Sunday afternoon’s game was a different affair, and the main difference was Foote’s unbeatable presence in the Stampeders net. Despite taking more than twice as many shots on goal as Williams Lake, the Steelheads still trailed 2-0 at the end of the first period. Foote stopped a couple breakaway shots along with everything else that came his way.

“They got an unbelievable performance out of their goaltender,” said Steelheads Assistant Coach Andy Malbeuf.

To add injury to insult, Ryan Devries was taken out for the rest of the game after taking a puck to the head near the end of the first. Malbeuf said Devries should be back in action soon, noting he was missed for the rest of Sunday’s game.

Going into the second period, Williams Lake scored a pair of goals in the first three minutes, taking a 4-0 lead. A couple minutes later, Smithers made it onto the scoreboard, only to see a Stampeders goal add to their 5-1 lead at the end of the third, despite Smithers dominating most of the action on the ice.

In the third, a pair of Williams Lake penalties helped the Steelheads pick up a pair of goals, but Foote held off the attempted comeback for the rest of the game, ending in a 5-3 win for Williams Lake.

Malbeuf pointed out that the Steelheads had over 50 shots on goal, but Foote was just not letting anything in the Williams Lake net.

“I thought we played a pretty good game, we just weren’t getting the bounces,” he said. “Once in a while you run into a hot goalie, and there’s not much you can do about that.”

The Steelheads finished the regular season with a record of 13 wins and three losses, the best record in the league, and enough to earn them the Lightning Cup for winning the regular season.

Malbeuf said as long as the Steelheads stick to the type of action they’re best at, they should do well through the playoffs.

“We’re an aggressive skating team, and an aggressive forechecking team. We just need need to make sure we play our game,” he said.

This weekend the Steelheads will be in Houston for the first of a three game first-round playoff series against the Luckies. Smithers will host the second game the following Saturday, January 29, and the third on Sunday, January 30 if the series runs to all three games.