Terrace River Kings skidded into third place in the CIHL, a decision made by BC Hockey to break the three-way points tie with Williams Lake and Smithers.
The River Kings claimed two victories last weekend against Quesnel and Williams Lake, capping off their season at 24 points and a record of 11 wins, three losses and two overtime losses.
That tied up the River Kings at the top with Williams Lake and Smithers, who also had 24 points and shared the same 12-4-0 record.
BC Hockey released final standings yesterday, Feb. 1, saying Williams Lake took first, Smithers second, and Terrace third, based on a criteria involving games won and goals scored.
Assistant coach Derek Jurista said it was tough for the team to take, because they were told before the weekend they would take first place if they won both games.
“It’s not a good feeling when you think you’re going to win by a certain rule they give you, and then they change it, and you get third,” Jurista said.
“The way we were told going into the weekend was, if we were to win both games and beat Williams Lake in regulation, then we’d get first place in the league.”
That was based on the CIHL tie-breaking rule, which compares the number of wins among only the games played between the tied teams.
But since the number of games played between each other was not equal, the rule does not apply, said BC Hockey yesterday, noting that Williams Lake has played four, and Terrace and Smithers both played six among the top three-teams.
Thus, they dropped to a second back-up rule, which counts all the games played: Terrace took third because they had 11 wins, while Smithers and Williams Lake both had 12 wins. Since Williams Lake had scored more goals against Smithers than vice versa, they took first.
“I understand the gist of it,” Jurista said, “just don’t tell us one rule, and then all of a sudden change it up after the fact.”
CIHL official Trevor Bast apologized for the delay, but noted that two other BC Hockey officials had checked and approved the decision.
The strong finish of the Terrace River Kings (11-3-2) still earn them first place in the west division with Prince Rupert (7-7-2) and Kitimat (0-16-0).
In the east, Williams Lake got first (12-4-0), Smithers second (12-4-0), and Quesnel (6-9-1) third.
Coach Kevin Legros said he was pleased with the team’s two solid games of hockey last weekend.
“It was a really good team effort by everybody, defence, forwards, goalies, everybody,” he said. “The boys came to play, and they did a good job.”
The River Kings dominated the Quesnel Kangaroos 7-2 on Jan. 28, scoring five goals in the first period to earn a solid 5-0 lead.
They scored one more early in the third, and then Quesnel persevered and managed to score two of their own by the end.
The River Kings capped off the game with one more goal to win 7-2.
Ben Reinbolt scored a hat trick, accompanied by two goals from Luke Walker, and one each from Greg Tuckerman and Tristan Murray.
Facing Williams Lake Stampeders Jan. 29, the River Kings managed to earn a lead and hold onto it to win 3-2.
Colten Braid fired in a slapshot from the right wing just five minutes into the game, but Williams Lake countered with a goal of their own a minute later.
With about six minutes left in the first period, Austin Legros beat the defence wide, drove to the net and fired the puck in top corner.
That earned the River Kings a 2-1 lead, and halfway through the second, Ben Reinbolt took a pass from Luke Walker and fired in a third goal.
Pressure amped up halfway through the third period, when Williams Lake scored to narrow the Terrace lead to 3-2.
Legros said the guys played clean and hard, especially in the third, and our goalie managed to stave off some hard attacks.
“Jared Rathjen, our goalie, was outstanding. He made some really key saves late in the game to keep that game in our favour,” Legros said.
The River Kings managed to hold their lead and overcome Williams Lake 3-2.
“Our penalty kill was unbelievable,” Legros added. “We killed a five-on-three in the second period against Williams Lake and they have the best power play in the league, and we shut them down.”
Jurista added that overall it seems the River Kings have found their stride.
“They’ve found a way to win… everyone’s just bought into the system,” he said.
“When they first started off, we had a lot of young guys too, right? So they didn’t know the system yet… you can see them picking it up… finding that chemistry is big too.”
Jurista said one player that stands out on the team is forward Brett Downie.
“He’s one of our main guys that you can put in, no matter what situation, and always have faith in him,” Jurista said.
An “unsung hero,” Downie isn’t always in the top scoring list, but he’s in the background, setting up plays and playing consistently.
“It’s the little things he does, like wins battles, doesn’t lose the puck… things that sometimes people don’t notice,” Jurista said of Downie.
“He’s probably been our most valuable player. He’s done a lot for us.”
The River Kings are now gearing up for the playoffs, with their first game Feb. 18.
It will be an away game against the winner of a best-of-three series between Prince Rupert and Kitimat.
Their second playoff game will be in Terrace Feb. 25.