River Kings skate into CIHL finals

The Terrace B.C. River Kings defeated Prince Rupert 5-2 last weekend, and will face Williams Lake in finals starting at home Saturday.

Dawsen Leblond battles for the puck against the Rampage defence last December 2016.

The Terrace River Kings defeated Prince Rupert Rampage 5-2 last Saturday, and are facing off against Williams Lake in the CIHL finals starting this Saturday in Terrace.

Last week’s playoff victory came despite the River Kings not being on their best game.

In typical Prince Rupert-Terrace fashion, the game was rough and physical, and forward Tristan Murray says goalie Jared Rathjen kept them in it.

“They outplayed us for stretches of it,” said Murray of their Prince Rupert opponents.

“We didn’t feel like we had our best game, but luckily we had really good goaltending and we were able to get it done.”

Though the River Kings may have came out slow, they managed to keep the Rampage off the scoreboard throughout the entire first period.

River Kings captain Steve Cullis netted the first goal at 12 minutes in the first, putting the home team up 1-0. Cullis fired his shot after he and Luke Gordon made a two-on-one attack, with Gordon gliding the puck up the ice and throwing it to Cullis last minute for the shot.

Assistant coach Derek Jurista says capitalizing on chances was one thing the team executed well, despite being somewhat “lack lustre” in the game.

“I don’t think it was one of our best games, we came out flat every period,” said Jurista, adding that goalie Rathjen “stood on his head,” making a number of key saves and halting a series of Rampage breakaways.

With Rathjen’s net minding, it wasn’t until early in the second that the Rampage scored their first goal to tie up the game.

Seven minutes later, Robert Orrey scored a shorthanded goal to earn the River Kings a 2-1 lead, easing pressure and allowing the River Kings to settle into their better game.

“I think we played better after that,” said Murray. “We were able to settle down after that and play a little better.”

Luke Gordon scored in the last minute of the second to widen the gap 3-1 for the River Kings.

The third period was back and forth for the first half, until Fred Mowatt scored halfway through to put the score at 4-1.

The Rampage managed to score another goal at the end, with just over a minute left in the game, but when the Rampage pulled their goalie, Luke Gordon sealed the deal 5-2.

Now the River Kings are advancing into the final series against Williams Lake.

The River Kings have won one and lost one against Williams Lake this season, and feel ready for the challenge.

“We feel good. They have a really good team, they’re very offensively talented, so it will be tough for sure, but we like our chances,” said Murray.

This Saturday, March 4, is the last Terrace home game in the CIHL this season.

Game two of the series will be in Williams Lake March 11, and game three March 12 if needed.

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