- BC Games
Is the River Kings' reign finally here?
The Terrace River Kings continued their point streak last weekend on home ice, beating the Smithers Steelheads 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday night and stomping the Houston Luckies 13-2 in the Sunday afternoon game.
On a five-game point streak, with one overtime loss and four wins, they're now sitting at fourth in the west with 11 points, just behind the Luckies' 12 points and ahead of the Prince Rupert Rampage's eight. But with games in hand entering the second half of the season – with nine games, they've played the least games of any CIHL team – they are well poised to climb up the standings – if they can keep their streak going.
“It's a great feeling to win, especially 13 – 2,” said River Kings general manager Ray Hallock, speaking of Sunday's blowout, which, somewhat unsurprisingly, turned into an aggressive affair with 139 penalty minutes given out in total, including seven game misconducts and a misconduct.
“Most of that was precipitated by the Houston players,” he said. “But that was Sunday. Saturday was a much more docile game.”
The hard-fought 5-4 shootout win against Smithers was the second win in a row for Terrace against the defending champions, the first being last month's 4-1 win in Smithers.
“I think Smithers was shocked,” said Hallock. “They were certainly shocked the first time, but even the second time...”
But Hallock doesn't anticipate the Williams Lake Stampeders – who they are playing on their road trip this weekend where they'll also go up against the Lac La Hache Tomahawks – being surprised at the Kings' turnaround.
“When you have a team like us, Terrace, that has made this turnaround and all of the sudden everybody's talking about us, then of course the competition is stronger because they're forewarned, you're not taking them by surprise,” he said.
The difference in the River Kings play this year is noticeable, and after a shaky start to the season, it appears they've finally found their footing – and the back of the net. Points are spread all across the team, with no one superstar leading the pack, and both goalies are solid.
“There's some really talented players and it's starting to come together,” he said. “We've got a lot of speed, the boys are in shape, the passing has improved. They're just playing their hearts out.”
The mostly young team is led by two new coaches – Rob Findlay and Kevin Legros, both fathers of River Kings' players – who have a different coaching style than longstanding former coach Roger Tooms.
“Rob is more willing to let the guys develop their own style of play whilst keeping them within guidelines,” said Hallock. “Whereas Roger was more strict about trying to enforce his standards of play, or make them follow certain routine plays.”
But that doesn't mean Tooms shouldn't get credit for the team's recent success.
“He was there in the formative years,” said Hallock, noting the team is just now emerging from years of rebuilding and restructuring. “A good percentage of the credit still has to go to Roger... He was a good coach and he put in some good years coaching this team.”
And some of the scrappier members of the team, notably Chris Brown, who had developed a tough reputation in the league over the years, have reigned themselves in.
“He's just holding himself back and behaving himself great,” said Hallock. “And he's an excellent hockey player. That was always his problem, that he couldn't keep his hands inside his gloves.”
Hallock's confident the team's streak will continue.
“As far as I can see, if the boys keep this up there's no reason we can't go all the way to the top this year,” he said.
But this weekend's road trip to the east will be a test – the team will have fewer players on the road, and Williams Lake is, as usual, one of the top teams in the league with 17 points in 12 games.
After that, they'll host the Kitimat Ice Demons and the Prince Rupert Rampage here at the Terrace Sportsplex Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14, respectively, giving Terrace fans a chance to check out the refreshed team for themselves.