An old nemesis, in the form of Prince Rupert Rampage goaltender, Keith Movald, stood on his head for two periods and turned aside all but four of 28 shots in the second and third periods of Saturday’s game in the port city.
Tied 4-4 after three periods, Movald stopped two of three while two Rampage players beat Jamie Moran, for a 5-4 win that earned them a spot in the CIHL playoffs.
The Ice Demons travelled without the services of scoring leader and key defenseman Jeff Mildenberger and seemed to be suffering from bus legs in the first period, as the Rampage came out with a full court press, hitting the Ice Demons hard.
The effort left them with a two-goal lead at the end of the lively period, on goals by Jared Andreeson (Brett Stave, Jared Meers) and Meers from Greg Sheppard and Bryan Tates. The Demons had only seven shots in the period as Rampage mustered nine.
The second period was quite different and went overwhelmingly in favour of the Ice Demons who came out like gang busters, sending a total of 14 shots at Movald and eliminating the lead on goals from Ian Coleman (Jeremy Brady, Doug Wilson), Chris Vilness, (Jeff Baker) and then taking a 3-2 lead on a goal by Craig Hewitson (Derek Wakita) with just 50 seconds left in the second.
But it was 50 seconds too long and the Ice Demons seemed to relax a bit with the lead and a giveaway off the wall 24 seconds later sent Jacob Santurbano in to put an open net rebound behind Jamie Moran, who saw only two shots earlier in the period.
Brett Stava and Andreesen were awarded assists.
Tied 3-3 at the start of the third, the Demons resumed the pressure and the Rampage also tried to get some momentum from the late goal.
But it was the Ice Demons that regained the lead just under five minutes in as they again began to pile up the shots at Movald.
Wakita got the go-ahead goal, set up nicely by Hewitson. But, just four minutes later on a Rampage rush down ice, the Demons defence turned over another puck and John Hunt said “thanks” and jammed it behind Moran.
That was pretty well the game as the Ice Demons simply pressed and pressed, but often not shooting as they tried to set up clear shots on net with Movald moving.
But it just didn’t seem meant to be. Terry Whelan missed on a penalty shot after he was pulled down in the act of shooting in front of the crease.
So the game went to as shoot-out as the crowd crescendo rose to a fever pitch.
The fans groaned as Hewitson drew Movald from the net, held on and scored an easy one.
And they erupted as first Moran stopped Brett Stava with a poke check on his first shot off the stick, but he swung around and poked it home.
The referee Barrie Girgan waved off Demons’ bench objections on the second shot.
Movald stayed squarely in front of Wade Masch and the puck went through the blue paint as the net came off – no goal.
Andreeson got the crowd excited again as he went straight in and shot past Moran to give the Rampage its second goal – and they simply erupted when Movald stopped Chris Vilness, to give the Rampage the shootout win.
So now it’s off to the playoffs with the Rampage, as a reward, hosting undefeated Smithers Steelheads in the opening game of the best of three first round Saturday.
The Ice Demons, after losing the last two games of the season, will face the Terrace River Kings, who defeated the Houston Luckies 4-1 Saturday, to claw their way back into playoff contention.
The Demons will face off against the Kings on Saturday, January 28.
In the East Division the Williams Lake Stampeders will be on the road at Houston to start their best of three and the Quesnel Kangaroos will be in the Lac La Hache Tomahawks arena for game one against a team which defeated them Saturday by a score of 7-5 proving this will be no slam-dunk for the Kangaroos, who finished second in the Division to the Stampeders.