The Kitimat Ice Demons had mixed success on the weekend, taking a win over the Hazelton Wolverines by a score of 6-3 on Saturday – in a game that cold conditions and very poor ice made much more difficult than it needed to be – then losing 3-1 to the Smithers Steelheads on Sunday.
The latter was as advertised – a fast, spirited and bruising affair that did turn out to be probably the best game seen in Smithers this season.
At least that was what the Smithers’ fans were saying as they left out of the arena.
For the Demons, too, it was one of their better on-ice efforts of the season, as they got a couple of injured players back.
The Demons on the whole felt they could have done better with a couple of breaks, although they were having no difficulty getting shots on Mike Wall.
But they were having a lot more difficulty getting pucks behind him.
The game went to the first intermission scoreless with the Demons were bemoaning a couple of good missed opportunities.
In this game Wall played up to his reputation, especially early when the Demons turned it on and ran up a shot total of 23-12 at about the third minute mark of the second period.
Wall was particularly sharp getting across his crease on a break by the Hewitson-Markwart-Josh Marsh line, where a shot by Markwart would probably have given the Demons the lead, but he passed to Marsh in better position.
Wall showed why he played at a higher level with a terrific sliding save.
Brett Vilness in the Demons goal also had a top notch game too with fast pads and a great glove.
But about the mid-way part of the second period, as the Steelheads tried to push back against good Demons pressure, Joe Karpinsky got his stick tip to a rebound in the crease, off a hard shoot in by Mark Arnold, that just fluttered behind Vilness.
The see-saw play resumed but, with just 11 seconds left in the period, the same play was essentially repeated as Tyler Pederson got a point shot into a scrum of bodies and legs in the crease and Devon Booth got a stick on the rebound to give the Steelies a 2-0 lead going to the second the intermission.
The Demons came hard early in the third and got one back eight minutes in when Ian Coleman (Derek Wakita, Terry Whelan) tipped a shot behind Wall off a nice dish off.
But as the play flowed back and forth Smithers got away with a neat patented seagull play by Ian Smith who drifted near the Demons’ zone, slowed down and got a long accurate feed pass from Ryan Devries to get in alone on Vilness, who made the first and second save, but still saw the jumping puck pushed over the line after a couple of stabs by Smith, fighting off Adam Buick.
After that, it wasn’t the Demons’ afternoon as Wall held the fort and the Steelheads kept coming.
Despite good chances at both ends there was no further scoring.
It was basically a clean game, with some familiar activity behind the play and ref Mike Mehr played a solid judge and jury role as the two rivals went at one another.
The Demons took 12 minutes in minors and Steelies 14. There was some pushing and shoving in both creases – but both teams knew they could not afford to be shorthanded the way the passing was going.
On Saturday night, in a freezing Hazelton arena where even the water bottles froze, the ice was very poor, hard and rutted, making puck control almost impossible.
The order of the day for the Wolverines was hard charging checking.
It was that kind of bumpy, bruising game with the Ice Demons getting goals from Steve Venman (2) (unassisted on the first and with an assist to Jordan Goncalves on the second), Wade Masch (Nick Markowsky), Jeff Mildenberger (Jeremy Brady), Blaine Markwart (Craig Hewitson) and Josh Slanina (Jon Aiken, Kyle Boudreault) to double up on the Wolverines, who had goals from Al Tolmie, Matt Wolfenden and Ryan Muldoe.
Wolverines had only about 100 in the arena on a cold, snowy night that was as brutal as the knock-down, charge and smash game inside.
Phil Morrison was tossed from the game late for unsportsmanlike conduct and the Wolverines had 11 minors and a major (for a hit from behind) while the Demons were assessed 24 minutes in minors.
This wasn’t great hockey, but the fans seem to enjoy it.
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The Ice Demons picked up two point by default this past weekend.
They were due to host the Hazelton Wolverines on Saturday night but the Wolverines had to pull out because they were unable to find enough players.
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Going into the weekend the Ice Demons had a comfortable lead atop the West Division with 16 points from 12 games.
The Terrace River Kings were eight points back but had three games in hand.
In the East Division newcomers Quesnel Kangaroos lead with 18 points from 12 games, six ahead of the Williams Lake Stampeders who have two games in hand.
And in the Central Division the Smithers Steelheads were cruising along with 20 points, 10 clear of the Houston Luckies.