The Kitimat Ice Demons took the brunt of penalties, but used a puck-control game and a hard fore check to earn two short-handed goals to beat the Terrace River Kings 5-3, Saturday, in the first game of the CIHL West Division quarter finals playoffs.
The River Kings threw their most aggressive game of the season at the Ice Demons, and held manpower advantages numerous times, but were unable to get back a lead they held early in the game, 39 seconds in to be exact, when a Kyle Leblond point shot got a good deflection from Garret Kerr, to beat Jamie Moran in the Demons’ goal.
But the promising start held up only for 10 minutes before the Demons tied on a nice hard shot goal by Terry Whelan, assisted by Kory Finn.
It looked like the opening frame would end in a tie, but with just a minute left, a hard point shot by Wade Masch, off a Craig Hewitson feed was deflected behind Craig Walsh in the Terrace goal by Ian Coleman and the frustrated Terrace team went to the intermission down a goal.
In the second period, the Demons went up 3-1 very early, this time with only 29 seconds gone, when Terry Whelan returned the first period favour for Kory Finn when his hard shot dropped in the crease and Finn quickly knocked it into the net.
The trips to the box were quite different in the second as Terrace was assessed only one minor penalty to Toby Mitchell for roughing after the whistle – while the Demons sat six minutes on three penalties.
Both teams lost a player to fighting as Dave Anthony and Kyle Leblond exchanged blows in a post-whistle scrum behind the River Kings’ net and both were ejected from the game.
Terrace got a goal closer with just under five minutes gone in the period when Tristan Murray finally got a puck behind Jamie Moran with assists to Josh Murray and Steve Cullis.
But again, as the period was running down, Kitimat got the short-handed goal to restore the two goal lead.
Again, the Demons were under-manned on the ice, with Ian Coleman in the box for a trip with 37 second remaining.
A hard fore check by penalty killer Craig Hewitson, saw Terrace almost turn over the puck three feet in front of Walsh, but the defence got the puck back and was lugging it up ice, when Hewitson caught up, lifted the stick and retrieved the puck.
He passed to Jeff Mildenberger who slid it back to Hewitson to the left of Walsh, and he unleashed a rising rocket into the top of the net, with just five seconds left on the clock.
The goal did not kill the Terrace effort to get back into the game and the officiating seemed to be going the River Kings way, as the Demons took three additional minor penalties in the middle part of the period, giving Terrace their best chance to get the score closer.
An unpenalized cross check on Kitimat goaltender Jamie Moran led to a fight between David Venman and Terrace’s Nathan Soucie, resulting on both being ejected from the game with 3.23 remaining.
Just 45 seconds later a pair of slashes involving King’s Toby Mitchell and Craig Hewitson of the Ice Demons, led to a centre ice brouhaha that saw Mitchell ejected for fighting and Hewitson assessed a double minor for slashing and roughing.
Both left the ice.
With just 1.11 remaining, however, Terrace scrambled a third goal by Josh Murray (David Tooms, Chris Brown) and were then presented with a great opportunity to tie the game, but that was rudely closed out after Kitimat’s Jeff Baker intercepted a missed pass and went in to roof the puck for the insurance goal for Kitimat.
The two teams get together again for the second clash of the playoffs at 8.00 p.m. this Saturday, January 29, with a third game, if needed, on Sunday at 1.00 p.m.
In other playoff games, West Division leaders, Prince Rupert Rampage, got the better of bottom-dwellers, Hazelton Wolverines, 9-5, and in the East the Smithers Steelheads won 3-0 over the Houston Luckies, while the Williams Lake Stampeders, taking on the Burns Lake Braves on the road, survived a two-goal third period rally by the Braves to win, 6-5.
These series resume in Williams Lake and Smithers this coming weekend.