The Terrace River Kings started 2014 much the same way as they ended it – with big wins – and they’re now tied for first in the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) standings after sweeping the Prince Rupert Rampage this past weekend.
A 6-5 shootout win on Friday in Prince Rupert, and a 4-2 win here in Terrace on Saturday has the River Kings with 23 points – putting them two points ahead of the Smithers Steelheads to sit at first in the western division, and tied for first overall with the Williams Lake Stampeders.
Friday’s game in Rupert wasn’t a cakewalk – the Rampage came out fighting and wasted no time bringing the crowd to their feet as Kory Movold carried the puck in close and buried a backhander five-hole just 2:25 into the game and Thomas Robinson picked up a loose puck in front and poked it past Terrace netminder Garrett Muir just 61 seconds later to make it 2-0 for Prince Rupert.
But the Kings responded just a few minutes later at 7:28 with a backhander by Derick Jurista to pull the River Kings within one.
With six minutes to play in the first, River Kings captain Josh Murray was pulled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot, which he shot wide. Rough stuff after the whistle and a bench minor would give Terrace 5-3 advantage to start the second.
The Terrace 5-on-3 resulted in a breakaway goal — for the short-handed Rampage. After sweeping away the puck, Devin Palmer went in alone and, after cutting across the net, put the puck over the pad of Muir just 1:19 into the period to extend the lead to two. After more back and forth action, Terrace cut into the lead when a weak Rich Clair shot hit the top of Rampage goalie Warren Hansen’s pad before bouncing through the five-hole with 8:56 to play. Movold scored his second of the game with 5:42 on the clock, sniping a wrister top shelf over the glove of Muir. Before the period ended, and on the powerplay following a Kendal Stace-Smith roughing call, Jurista narrowed the gap with a shot from a bad angle that snuck between Hansen and the post with 3:38 to go. Like the first the second ended with the Rampage holding onto a one goal lead, 4-3, ensuring an exciting final frame.
The River Kings came out fired up in the third and tied things up just 55 seconds into the period when Corey Dekelver tipped one past Hansen right in front. Terrace dominated the early part of the period as the Rampage were unable to get anything going offensively, including a two minute man advantage that didn’t see a single shot make it to the Terrace net, and that strong play allowed the River Kings to take the lead for the first time when Josh Murray squeaked one under a downed Hansen with 12:52 to play. The remainder of the period was similar to the start, with Terrace keeping Rupert at bay and play largely in the Rampage end. As the clock wound down it looked like the River Kings would take the regulation win, but Rampage captain Jared Meers snapped a wrister past Muir with 1:16 to play to tie things up. When the final buzzer sounded, the two teams were tied at five, forcing overtime.
The extra five minutes of four-on-four didn’t resolve anything and the two goaltenders prepared for what would prove to be a lengthy shootout. Both Jurista and Meers were stopped in the first round, while Hansen shut down Jurista and Movold put one under the blocker of Muir in the second. In the third round, Terrace captain Steve Cullis went low glove side on Hansen to keep the River Kings alive and Muir shut the door on Kendal Stace-Smith, meaning an extra set of shootouts was needed. In the fourth round, William Fisher went low stick side on Hansen and Jordan Weir put one through the pads of Muir. In the fifth round, Jeremy Van Den Broek went low stick side on Hansen while Muir shut down Josh Kierce of the Rampage to give Terrace the 6-5 win.
The next day, Terrace hosted the Rampage for a rematch in what was the River Kings last home game of the season. The game started once more with a Rampage goal as Kierce put one past Muir with 7:46 to play, but Jurista put one past Devin Gerrits with 9:51 to play to tie things up at one going into the second.
The River Kings quickly took the lead in the second as Calen Findlay found the back of the net just 51 seconds into the period on the powerplay. Just over eight minutes in, Cullis extended the River Kings’ lead, heading into the final frame leading 3-1.
Terrace’s Lee Muir put the game almost out of reach with 13:33 to go with the team’s fourth goal, but the Rampage went out on a high note as Craig Munro beat Muir on the powerplay with 3:05 left to narrow the gap. When the buzzer sounded, the River Kings completed the sweep with a 4-2 victory.
This upcoming weekend marks the final roadtrip – and final two games – of the regular season for the River Kings before heading into the CIHL playoffs. They’ll be in Lac La Hache on Saturday, Jan. 11 and in Quesnel facing off the Kangaroos on Sunday, Jan 12.
With files from Shaun Thomas, Prince Rupert Northern View