It was a fascinating weekend in CIHL action.
Your Terrace River Kings managed a very respectable split in their two games in the distant Eastern Conference. On Saturday they managed to outscore the Lac La Hache Tomahawks 9-7. On Sunday they swallowed their pride (and apparently some teeth) in Quesnel, losing 7-4 to the hopping mad Kangaroos.
Box score information was not readily available to determine what led to Terrace’s scoring explosion. But any time any team can travel all that way, in the frigid cold with winter roads and with less than a full team, and come away with at least two points is very commendable in this league.
Elsewhere in CIHL Eastern Conference action Quesnel beat Williams Lake 8-6.
Prince Rupert was the place to be for all the headline action in the CIHL this weekend. The lowly Rampage pulled off the biggest upset of the year by defeating a seriously undermanned Smithers Steelheads on Saturday by a score of 3-2. Smithers only had 11 skaters, but still peppered Rupert throughout with quality scoring chances. Rupert goaltender Keano Wilson was spectacular in net and was key to the upset victory.
Rupert badly needed those two points to set up a “winner takes all” match up against visiting Houston on Sunday. The winner of the Rampage-Luckies match would claim the final CIHL playoff berth. Houston, who lost 6-2 the night before in Kitimat, only had 14 skaters themselves, but Rupert could not recreate their magic from the night before. The Luckies defeated the Rampage 5-3 and claimed the final playoff spot.
Smithers meanwhile travelled to Kitimat in what at one time promised to be the game of the year and possible showdown for first place overall.
Smithers already captured the league regular season title a little while back, but the hometown Ice Demons were licking their chops when they saw Smithers skate on to the ice with only 11 skaters. The Ice Demons handled the exhausted Steelheads for much of the game, and became downright cocky by the third period. The final score was only 5-4, with Smithers hitting the goal post in the final minute of action.
There is one more weekend of action in the CIHL, though most teams are now done and waiting for the playoffs. Next weekend Vanderhoof, under the name Omenica Ice, travel to Prince Rupert on Saturday before closing out the season in Terrace on Sunday.
The CIHL playoffs will begin on January 26th, with Smithers and Williams Lake as the favourites to meet in the final again.
The Terrace River Kings will host the arch rival Kitimat Ice Demons for game one that day, with game 2 in Kitimat on February 2nd. If needed, the decisive game 3 will be in Kitimat at a date and time yet to be announced.