The Kitimat Ice Demons controlled 90 per cent of Saturday’s opening game of the best of three CIHL West Division final against Prince Rupert – but failed to capitalize on a barrage of shots and lost 3-2 to the division-winning Prince Rupert Rampage.
It was an uncharacteristic game. The Demons found the puck bouncing and rolling and could not set up their usual precise controlled-passing game. The Prince Rupert defense and Keith Movald in goal played a valiant game – but the difference was in opportunism as the Rampage seized on the few opportunities presented to put the puck in the net.
A largely cleanly-played gave with a total of five minor penalties to the Rampage and four to the Ice Demons, it was a game of huge frustration for the home team who had a huge third period after dropping behind 3-1 in the second period – but they could only claw one back in the 19 shot period.
At the other end, the credit went to Movald and the Rampage defense which probably blocked another doze ore more shots – but defended the goal as furiously as the Ice Demons were attacking it.
Ice Demons had a slow start to the game, but were much more offensive than the Rampage, and were unlucky to fall behind 1-0 on a nicely scored goal by Chris Woodrow, who went in one on on, got around Jeff Mildenberger on defense and lofted a shot over Jamie Moran in the Kitimat net.
Early in the second period, Terry Whelan (Wade Masch) was in a position to slap a hard shot at the crush in front of Movald and got it through on a deflection to tie the game.
Greg Sheppard objected to Ian Coleman spraying snow on a hard stop in front of Movald and took the ice Demons player hard into the corner after the whistle, resulting in a double roughing and unsportsmanlike penalty for Sheppard and a roughing for Coleman.
Demons pressed hard but did not capitalize on the power play but shortly after that was over Movald went down awkwardly on a save and to compound matters, Blaine Markwart was assessed a two minute boarding penalty and Chris Woodrow fought for a puck in the Demons’ corner and got a pass across to Brett Stava who tipped it past Moran, to make it 2-1 on the power play.
Shortly after that, with the Demons pressing hard for the equalizer, Keith Movald dropped awkwardly to cover up a puck in his crease. Sheppard with a vicious cross-check to Craig Hewitson sent the forward tumbling on top of Movald into the net. Movald took a long time to get up and with Kitimat again pressing its power play hard, the defence was caught pinching and Rupert got a good block that sent Kendall Stace-Smith and Johnnie hunt in on a shorthanded two-on-one. Moran stopped the initial shot from Stace-Smith but Hunt was right there to lift the rebound into the net.
This stunning turn of events sent the temperature up on the Ice Demons’ bench going into the third period and the pummelled the Rupert net. But Movald held firm and the tiring defense blocked away numerous shots. Rupert did not get a shot in the period until the 12 minute mark when Colt Stava made Moran make a glove save on a shot from centre ice.
The pressure finally paid off for the Ice Demons, when Wade Masch, converted to centre, pushed a Derek Wakita rebound over the line to get the Demons within one with 6.06 remaining in the period. Ben Rego also earned an assist.
As the play wore down and the clock became the enemy, the Ice Demons eventually pulled goaltender Moran and went with six attackers…but the defense held out, even getting five cracks at the empty net, three stopped by defenders and two missing for icing.
It was a much frustrated Kitimat team and a jubilant Rampage team that shook hands, each looking forward, for different reasons to game two in the Jim Ciccione rink in Rupert, at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
The Demons were just glad there are one or two more games in the final series and the Rampage will be looking forward to noisy support from the home crowd.
Kitimat fans planning to travel are warned to try to book rooms early as the All Native Basketball Tournament will be in Rupert as well next week.