Different season, same result.
The Smithers Steelheads started 2013-14 in style, with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Houston Luckies on Saturday night.
They came out flying in the first period and set the league on notice that the boys from Smithers are still the CIHL’s best.
Three minutes into the opening period Steelheads captain Daryl Young streaked down the wing, whipped a shot at Luckies goaltender Brock Henrickson, crashed the net hard and buried the rebound to put the Steelheads up by one.
Ten minutes later, Ian Smith doubled the Steelheads lead off a nice feed from Ryan DeVries.
But the opening 20 minutes wasn’t all roses.
As usual, the Steelheads had to battle through a shortened bench, but things got worse during the first period when they lost Devon Booth to injury and Calvin Johnson to a game misconduct, leaving them with only three defenceman the rest of the way.
But the three remaining defencemen buckled down and soaked up the extra ice time.
“I kept asking them if they were okay to play and every time they’d say ‘I’m fine,’” head coach Tom DeVries said.
In the second the Luckies served notice that they weren’t going to roll over.
There’s a reason for the old adage that a two goal lead is the most dangerous one in hockey.
Five minutes in, right-winger Rylan Stanyer slapped the puck through the Steelhead’s goaltender Steve ‘Buddha’ Andrade’s legs and into the back of the net.
Minutes later, Luckies forward Brandon West tied the game up at two after picking up a pass from Glen Kelly right in front of the net and sliding it into the back corner.
The back and forth play continued in the third.
Smithers retook the lead off Kirk Meaver’s first as a Steelhead, but shortly after, Luckies winger Skylar Hassel picked up a rebound from Brandon West and fired it over Andrade, tying the game at three.
The teams remained deadlocked for the rest of regulation, but in overtime, Spencer Brooks broke free in the neutral zone, streaked down the left side and buried the game winner through Henrickson’s legs.
With nine different players hitting the scoresheet and a strong 30-plus save performance from Andrade it was a total team effort.
“It was a tight game,” DeVries said.
“Our defense played outstanding and our goalie, who’d never played a game for us before, made a lot of stops for us, so that was good to see.”
Andrade, the team’s new third stringer, wasn’t even supposed to play, but back-up Tyler Perreault was a late scratch.
Young, who opened the scoring for the Steelheads, echoed DeVries sentiments about Andrade’s performance.
“Buddha played really well in net,” Young said. “He kept us in it all game long. He was probably one of our best players.”
Luckies head coach Shane Brienen was pleased his team was able to stay in it with the 2013-14 CIHL champs.
“We were right in there all the way,” Brienen said. “It could have gone either way.”
“I think it’s a great team. We’ve got lots of young guys and some good size and if we can give Smithers a hard time, we’ll be competitive against everybody this year.”
Up next for the Steelheads, a rematch with the Luckies in their home opener.
They’ll still be without number one goaltender Mike Wall, but regular back-up Tyler Perreault is scheduled to start the game.
“These guys are raring to go,” DeVries said.
“The first game is always tough on the guys, but with a couple days of rest they’ll be good to go again for the home opener.”
The game goes on Friday at 7:30 at the Smithers Civic centre.