Connor Onstein (19) made it 5-1 for the River Kings with an unassisted goal midway through the second period. Scoring six goals through the first 40 minutes, the visitors had done enough to weather a furious Rupert comeback effort. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

River Kings score weekend sweep to lock up first place in CIHL

Terrace will have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs

The Terrace River Kings clinched first place in the CIHL regular season after a pair of weekend wins. The first game came against Prince Rupert, the sides splitting the season series so far, each winning in their own building back in December. Coming into the Friday, Jan. 31 showdown, Prince Rupert sat one point ahead of Terrace through 14 games played each.

Terrace set the tempo in the first period, and were rewarded more than halfway through the period, the lead coming via a family connection as Ben Reinbolt combined with Chapen Leblond to set up Sam Reinbolt for the game’s opening goal.

Young fans cheer on as Prince Rupert’s Marcus Atchison and Terrace’s Chapen Leblond plan their next move. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Despite out-shooting the Rampage 14-7 in the first period the River Kings managed just the one goal. The goal light would be put to work in the second period though, starting right off of puck drop as Terrace scored a trio of goals in 2:41 early on to leap out to a 4-0 lead. Hunter Johnson, Gianni Carmano and Mason Richey had the tallies. Teal Burns finally got the home side on the board at the 5:36 mark, but his goal was cancelled out by a Connor Onstein goal less than two minutes later to make it 5-1 for the visitors.

Connor Onstein (19) made it 5-1 for the River Kings with an unassisted goal midway through the second period. Scoring six goals through the first 40 minutes, the visitors had done enough to weather a furious Rupert comeback effort. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Mason Richey slams home a one-timer past a helpless Kieran Sharpe in goal. Richey would go on to complete his hat trick as he proved pivotal in the offensive explosion. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Prince Rupert would close out the period strong though to stay in the game, starting with a goal from captain Kory Movold snapped top right on the glove side of goalie Pat Leal at 9:17 to cut the lead to three. Tyler Ostrom had Rupert on the board again just 62 seconds later as he jammed home a loose puck. Connor Beauchemin stopped the bleeding for Terrace at the 11:31 mark to boost Terrace’s lead to 6-3, but another goal from Movold with just 70 seconds left in the period gave Rupert hope going into the final 20 minutes.

Jeremy Boot ripped a shot home early in the third period to bring Prince Rupert within one goal of tying the game. It would be the closest they would come though, as Terrace scored the next four goals to wrap up the game. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

The crowd at the Jim Ciccone went electric when the Rampage pulled within one at 3:11 of the third period when Jeremy Boot made his contribution to the score sheet. They went even crazier just minutes later when it appeared that the home side had tied the game, but the goal was taken away due to goaltender interference, a decision met with a chorus of boos from the fans. This would prove to be the turning point, as Terrace took command the rest of the way to the tune of four more goals. Connor Beauchemin restored the multi-goal lead on the power play at 9:07 on a glove side shot that Rupert goalie Kieran Sharpe would have loved to have back, followed by quick strikes from Fred Mowatt that just trickled over the line, and a second goal from Richey to give the River Kings three goals in 2:53. Ostrom was tossed from the game after Terrace’s ninth goal as emotions boiled over.

With the score well out of hand, gloves flew at the end of the game. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Prince Rupert’s Jim Lessard got the best of Terrace’s Ben Reinbolt on this occasion. Should the two rivals meet in playoffs, it is sure to be a feisty series. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

The exclamation mark was delivered with just 25 seconds left as Mason Richey cranked home his hat trick goal on the power play to see his side hit double digits. This followed a spirited exchange between the benches as head coaches Roger Atchison from the Rampage and Stephen Turner from Terrace debated in colourful terms the apparent sportsmanship of each other’s teams.

“Our first period was really good, we were on them a lot and we forechecked. We have some big forwards,” Terrace coach Stephen Turner said of his team’s effort. “Our guys came out and we scored those goals so quick, but we started to get a little slack, we didn’t bear down and everybody wants to score. Everybody wants to be fancy and that’s what happens.”

Turner’s advice for the team when the Rampage looked poised to tie it up: “We’re still winning the game, we have to make smart decisions. Fire the puck in, don’t make stupid plays in our own end, quit trying to be fancy. Go force the issue like we did in the first period, and the kids came around.”

READ MORE: Prince Rupert Rampage roll in Cariboo country

The loss meant Rupert would almost certainly be playing Hazelton in the playoffs, unless Smithers pulled off an upset of Terrace on Saturday night. The Rampage would get no such luck though, as the River Kings dismantled the visiting Steelheads 9-4 to clinch first place.

“They came out with their A-team and played hard, and we couldn’t really weather the storm,” Rampage head coach Roger Atchison said after the game. “I’m happy with our guys, they battled back and made it a game.”

“We tied it for a split second,” Atchison said of the disallowed Rampage goal. “I didn’t really like the call but it is what it is, it doesn’t matter whether I like it or not, it didn’t count.”

The win set Terrace on track for a first place finish, earning them home ice advantage throughout the CIHL playoffs. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

The game therefore would serve as a valuable preview for the upcoming postseason matchup. Hazelton had the first pair of goals in the game, Kevin Mcnab scoring 6:31 in before setting up teammate Byron Sam to double the lead eight minutes later. Kory Movold got Rupert on the board before the period was out though, pulling off the signature Peter Forsberg move to get the crowd into the game.

Teal Burns (15) and Kory Movold (28) attempt to create some traffic in front of Keano Wilson in the Hazelton goal during play in the CIHL regular season finale for both sides. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Like the previous night though it was a tough start to the middle frame, Mcnab adding his second at 4:09 before Wilfred Duncan put the Wolverines out-front 4-1 halfway through the period. Like Friday as well though, Rupert closed the period strong with a pair of goals, first a snipe high glove side by Teal Burns on goalie Keano Wilson, followed by a power play goal from Koltin Chasse to bring the score to 4-3 after 40 minutes.

Rupert’s Marcus Atchison dives down in an attempt to stop Kevin Mcnab from reaching Kieran Sharpe in goal. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Hazelton was able to convert moments later though as Wilfred Duncan (10) worked the puck into the back of the net. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Just 25 seconds into the third period the Rampage were back on even footing as Kory Movold scored a power play tally for his second goal of the game. The home side looked in trouble when Duncan scored his second of the game with 4:45 remaining, but a Rampage answer from Teal Burns a mere 26 seconds later meant overtime was in the cards for the two teams.

Five minutes of four-on-four hockey would solve nothing, but just 72 seconds into the wide open ice of three-on-three play the game had a winner as Teal Burns completed his hat trick to ensure the Rampage ended the regular season on a winning note. Rupert likely would have put the game away earlier but for the stellar play of Keano Wilson in goal, who turned aside 47 shots total.

It took until double overtime for these sides to end the spirited affair, when a Teal Burns shot got past Hazelton goalie Keano Wilson during three-on-three play. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

The goal set off a raucous response from the crowd, and players, and sent Prince Rupert into the postseason on a positive mark. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Kieran Sharpe and Jared Carter are all smiles after pulling off the comeback victory. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Prince Rupert’s playoff matchup is now set, with Game 1 of their series against the Wolverines beginning on Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre in Hazelton. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Terrace meanwhile awaits the winner of a one-game series between the Kitimat Ice Demons and Smithers Steelheads.

READ MORE: Rupert Raiders prove themselves the Apex competitors

READ MORE: Prince Rupert brings home bronze medal from Quesnel

Having shown up in strong numbers for a successful regular season, Rampage fans will next pack into the Jim Ciccone Centre for playoff hockey when Prince Rupert hosts the Hazelton Wolverines. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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