Ice Demons clinch West division title

The Kitimat Ice Demons picked up four important points in the CIHL West Division...

The Kitimat Ice Demons picked up four important points in the CIHL West Division on Friday, December 16 and Saturday, December 17 in games that were night and day.

On Friday in a rock ’em, sock ’em ,all out roughhouse with the Terrace River Kings in Terrace, the Demons used the power play and some late game puck control to hold off a raucous River Kings team that was using every means possible to get back into play-off contention, but still losing 5-2 to a slightly more disciplined Demons team.

On Saturday night Demons hosted the Prince Rupert Rampage, still a bit shorthanded, as they cruised to a 7-3 win in a sloppily played game that was more fun for the fans and easier on the body, featuring only three minors to the Demons and one to the Rampage.

The Ice Demons weekend started early with a Friday night road game in Terrace, where the Demons took advantage of a couple of power play goals and some good puck control late in the third to take a 5-2 win over a very frustrated and belligerent Terrace River Kings team.

Terrace might have deserved better if they’d stuck to playing hockey, but after a strong hard skating and hard hitting first  first period – Demons did not get their first shot on goal until the nine minute mark – Terrace gave up a power play goal to negate an early lead on their first shot of the game by Chris Kirby (Rajan Sangha.)

The quick shot by Kirby got cleanly past Brandon Highton in the Kitimat net, who was a bit screened..

The even-up goal came at the 2.35 mark of the first period.

Less than a minute later Terrace defenseman David Tooms, and Kitimat’s Kyle Madsen bumped together on a line change, exchanged a couple of slashes then dropped the gloves for a fairly long scrap that probably saw both coaches tearing their hair, as they trooped to the dressing rooms.

A couple of minutes later, with Sangha serving a hooking penalty, the Terrace defence let the Demons pass the puck around at will and Craig Hewitson roofed a perfect set up from Jeff Mildenberger behind Patrick Leal, playing out of the crease.

Early in the second period, Terrace regained the lead on a scramble goal, when Calen Findlay pushed the uncovered puck into the net in a scrum in front of the Demons’ net.

After the goal call Cameron Kerr took a goaltender interference penalty and less than a minute later the Terrace defence seemed paralysed again as Ian Coleman skated unmolested out of the corner and directed a hard shot behind Leal. The assist went to Jeremy Brady.

Withe the game tied 2-2 Derek Wakita scored a similar goal to Findlay’s when he kept plugging in front of  Leal and was able to put a loose puck behind him with 9.26 left in the period.

Assists on this goal went to Chris Vilness and Jordan Goncalves.

The game, which had been a very tough hard hitting affair began to go downhill as Richard Clair took a two minute penalty for roughing after the whistle on the goal as the scrum continued.

Goncalves went with him as the referee tried to maintain control.  A frustrated Steve Cullis, trying to push his team, then took two unnecessary penalties for slashing and hooking respectively to keep the Kings behind the eight ball till the end of the period.

The third was a continuation of the first two, but Terrace put on a couple of hard pushes and Highton was excellent, while the defence maintained some good puck control in their own end.

The Demons added two goals with just under five minutes remaining when Josh Slanina drew four Terrace players after him into the corner then dropped a nice pass to incoming Kyle Boudreault who one-timed it behind Leal.

Then some aggressive forechecking by the line of Hewitson, Coleman and Whelan left Hewitson alone in front of Leal, deep in his net, and he made no mistake with just 1.56 left in the period.

That started another scrum that resulted eventually in Cullis’s ejection from the game with a misconduct for beaking at the referee, with just half a minute left.

On Saturday, still feeling the bruises from the previous night, the Demons had David Venman and Jeff Baker back in the lineup and with the defence shored up and more room, Kitimat had a better opportunity to play their passing game to good effect.

The Rampage, still minus the Stavas and goaltender Keith Movald, played a peaceful skating game and Demons looked much more on the ball.

However, with goaltenders Brett Vilness (Demons) and Tremain Kurka doing some pretty sterling work in their respective nets, the first period was a bit of  a wash until the 13th minute when John Hunt snapped a goal behind Vilness, against the run of play, as Mildenberger lost an edge and tripped at the Rampage blue line to let Hunt in alone on a long skate.

Trevor Cloutheir earned an assist on the turnover.

Four minutes later, Mildenberger made up for the trip when he drifted into the Rampage zone and dropped a pass to Justin Bogaert crossing the blue line who snapped a shot over Kurka’s left shoulder to even the scoring at 1-1.

In the dressing room, the Demons castigated themselves for the sloppy start and came out fast in the second, snapping two quick goals in two minutes to take a 3-1 lead that they never relinquished.

The first goal, a beauty, was finished off by Jeremy Brady after some nice tic-tac passing play from Mildenberger to Coleman and on to Brady to finish, with just1.08 gone in the period.

Jonnie Aitken put the finishing touch to a heads up play 1.14 seconds later, with Madsen and Baker, celebrating his return after a long recovery, both earning assists on the goal.

The Rampage pulled to within one with a   goal by Jared Meers, who was in position in the Demons crease to redirect a nice cross pass from Bryan Tates to give the Rampage some life.

But the two goal lead was reinstated by Whelan right off the face-off as Slanina put a neat pass on his stick on a two-on-one and he made no mistake.

Steve Venman started the play and earned an assist.

That took care of the scoring in the second and the Demons turned a sloppy game into a better passing and opportunity game in the third, with three more goals, the first, with just three minutes gone, by Hewitson popping home a forward pass from Bogaert, with an assist to Wakita.

Six minutes later the favour was returned as Hewitson dropped a pass from the goal red line back to Wakita coming up the middle and he slammed it behind Kurka.

And at 16:22 the pair exchanged passes again with Hewitson getting his second of the night and fourth in two games and Wakita earning his third point of the night.

Demons now have the West Division clinched with 24 points, from 11 wins and two shoot-out losses with Rupert a distant second with 13 on the season.

The River Kings roughed up Hazelton 11-1 Saturday, Smithers beat Lac La Hache 4-2 and Williams Lake Stampeders overpowered Houston 9-5.