The Smithers Steelheads closed out the regular season with a blow out 10-5 victory over the Kitimat Ice Demons before the Quesnel Kangaroos stifled a close Steelheads comeback less than 24 hours later.
In the first of the weekend double-header on home ice, the Steelheads faced off against the Ice Demons for the fourth and final time this season.
The Groot-Devries line went to work early with forward Randall Groot opening the scoring just five minutes into the first, netting one top shelf on Ice Demon netminder Shahar Moudahi.
Less than two minutes later, Ian Smith beat him high above the shoulder.
Mark Arnold put his team up 3-0 in early in the second, netting one just 55 seconds into the middle frame.
But the Ice Demons chipped away at the Steelheads’ lead, scoring three unanswered goals on goalie David Little from Craig Vienneau, Jordan Goncalves and Derek Wakita, two of which came on the powerplay.
In the third, the Steelheads battled back with strong offence.
Arnold scored a hat trick, Calvin Johnson tallied three helpers, while Ryan Green, Skylar Hassel, and Brendan and Adam Devries had multiple helpers on the night.
Less than 24 hours later, the Steelheads took on the Quesnel Kangaroos, who are getting set to take on the Williams Lake Stampeders in the first round of the playoffs in the east division.
The road team drew first blood scoring on Little three times to put them up by the dreaded 3-0 lead at the end of the opening period.
In the second, forward Brendan Devries breathed life into the team after a turnover in front of the Quesnel goalie, putting them on the board just 42 seconds into the second.
Devries netted his second of the night just two minutes later, followed by another goal from brother Adam.
Heading into the third down 6-4, the Steelheads fought to bring them within one, with the Devries brothers and Arnold adding to their point tally.
With seconds left, the Steelheads hit the crossbar and were unable to convert, losing 7-6.
“I thought we played well. We were really struggling in our own end both games this week,” said head coach Tom Devries. “We got lots of goals and a lot of players are scoring goals which is nice to see.”
Brendan Devries finished the regular season on a high note, scoring his third hat trick of the season.
“I just had room to skate, I saw their [defencemen] were pretty spread out so I tried to muscle through the middle. I got a lucky bounce, I backhanded it and it squeaked in,” said Brendan of the third goal.
Little faced 61 shots over the weekend.
“We’re happy that the season is done and excited for playoffs,” added Brendan.
The rookie lead the team in scoring this season with 40 points, followed by Adam with 27 and Groot with 19.
Overall, the team finished with 10 wins and six loses.
With another season behind them, the team will get set to face the Terrace River Kings in the first round of the playoffs with home ice advantage at the end of the month.
The River Kings finished first in the west division and second in the league with 13 wins and only two loses.
With a two-week break between the last regular season game and playoffs, the focus is on keeping the players sharp.
“We’ve got a weekend off and we have a couple of practices. Just keep guys sharp and I’m sure they’ll be ready to play,” said Tom. “They’re mentally prepared.”
“We’re just going to try and get as many ice times as we can and keep the legs going,” said Eric Smith.
“Terrace is a good team and having two games in Terrace is going to be tough.”
As for goaltending, Little has made a name for himself in his first season with the team; Devries noted that Little will likely be the starting netminder for the first playoff game.
Little finished off the season with a 0.871 save percentage.