It took a late goal, with just 57 seconds left in the 2-2 tied second game of the CIHL West Division finals before the Kitimat Ice Demons were able to eliminate a much harder-working Terrace River Kings, 3-2. Saturday night at Tamitik Arena in Kitimat.
The River Kings came in with the memory of four straight defeats at the hands of the Demons as the season wound down. This season, with a slow Ice Demons start, and a good early run for the River Kings had shown them battling it out with the Prince Rupert Rampage for the division lead just before Christmas. But most of the fell apart in an ugly January and in the first game of round one of the playoffs, won by the Ice Demons, 5-3, last week in Terrace.
Kitimat may have been looking beyond Terrace and got caught looking as a hard-fought opening period ended 0-0, with Terrace looking the more aggressive team. But just 3.15 minutes into the second period, Kitimat got a good go-ahead goal off a face-off in the Terrace end when Terry Whelan got a good high shot on goaltender Patrick Leal, which rebounded at the feet of captain Derek Wakita who quickly put it in the net. Wade Masch had the second assist.
That seemed to wake up both teams, and an undisciplined roughing incident involving Demons’ Kory Finn and River Kings’ Chris Brown, in the box, with Finn getting a double minor. Terrace tied the game on the ensuing power play, as Terrace played the box well and Josh Murray one-timed a David Tooms pass behind Brett Vilness in the Demons’ net.
With the penalties over, Terrace was re-energized and Craig Hewitson left the Ice Demons shorthanded again, when he was assessed a holding penalty on a Terrace rush at 11.29. He just made it back on the ice a second before Terrace got a go-ahead goal, with 9.35 left in the period. The lead did not last long. From the next face-off, Wade Masch sent Craig Hewitson into the corner to the left of Patrick Leal, He was being pursued round the back of the net when he slid a backward pass to Blaine Markwart at the edge of the crease and he lofted it behind the goaltender as he came away from the post, to tie the game 2-2, just 30 second from the face-off, with 9.00 minutes left.
The remainder of the second period was a see-saw affair, with Kitimat trying hard to get the go-ahead goal and Terrace coming on Brett Vilness in waves. Shots in the period indicated the play, Kitimat 13, Terrace 11.
The third was a hard-hitting affair, with both teams shortening the benches to three lines, as referee Mike Mehr from Smithers let the teams settle it. Going into the final two minutes, each team had only a single roughing penalty to show for all the crashing and banging. Terrace had the edge in shots 9-8 at that point and both teams were knocking on the door as the goaltenders responded with some excellent saves.
But a tiring Terrace, with over time looming, called a time out to plan last minute strategy, with just 1.07 remaining. The time out allowed coach Danny Baker to rest the forward threesome of Ian Coleman, Craig Hewitson and Blaine Markwart, which took the ice to replace the third line. Hewitson won the face-off, got the puck back to Markwart who got a shot of goal and Ian Coleman poked at the rebound which deflected over the line off a skate in the crush in the crease – this time, just 10 seconds after the puck dropped — and the 750 Kitimat fans erupted.
Terrace was deflated and 19 second after the centre-ice face-off, Rich Clair took a frustration cross-check penalty and the Demons simply controlled the puck in the Terrace end until the final whistle.
The Ice Demons knew they hadn’t played their best game, and may have been guilty of under-estimating Terrace and looking ahead to the next playoff round. They know they’ll
be playing a stronger team next week, Division-winning Prince Rupert Rampage, which eliminated the Hazelton Wolverines in two high scoring games.
The second round game goes at 8.00 p.m.