By Tom Best, Smithers Interior News
In the first of a two game home stand last weekend, the full house crowd was treated to another exciting demonstration of skills and thrills as the Steelheads kept coming back from behind against their perennial rivals Terrace River Kings with a last minute 5-3 win.
Actually it wasn’t quite the last minute as the official score sheet showed the winning goal was scored with 1:01 second left on the clock. An open net insurance goal put the icing on the cake to the cheers of around 700 frenetic fans.
Heading into the game, both coaches knew that it would be a no holds barred, take no prisoners affair and the contest more than gave full value for each ticket.
Steelheads Coach Tom DeVries knew that the game would be tough as the home team had lost a close match to the River Kings the previous weekend in Terrace. The first period foretold what was in store for the rest of the evening as the River Kings came out hitting hard and firing fast.
Not to be outdone, the locals deflected and deked the puck to get on the board first with a 1-2-3 passing play that Wade Masch slipped past Derek Rathsen.
It was like the visitors just took it on the chin, shrugged and came back one minute later as their speedy skates and precise passes put one past David Little at the other end of the ice.
The momentum of the game was all Terrace’s in the first frame as the Steelheads seemed to struggle with passes and positioning. Goalie David Little once again kept the team in the game with save after sparkling save as Terrace outshot Smithers 20-7.
The reset button must have been pressed during the intermission as it seemed like a different squad had suited up for the next period. Joel Gellvear potted the first of a pair on the night to tie things up while Ian Smith put the Steelheads into the lead just as time ran out of the second frame.
It was a good thing the house had a few moments to catch their breath before the next period got under way because it turned into a festival of knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out hockey. The thrills! The chills! It was like one of those old fashioned come-ons more often associated with the circus.
Non-stop. Bang-on passes. Slippery puck-handling. It sometimes seemed like a short track speed skating race with sticks and a puck. Exciting, thrilling, heartstopping.
Shortly into the period, a very determined Terrace line dodged all defenders and managed to put one past Little to tie it up 3-3.
That’s when the fun started. Over the rest of third period, the Steelheads outshot the River Kings 17-10 only to be stymied by some brilliant work by Rathsen.
And then just when the fans in the stands were mentally preparing themselves for possible overtime play, Gellvear hammered one home with just over one minute left to play.
Perhaps delirious is a bit of an overstatement, but the joint was jumping with excited Steelhead supporters. Forty seconds later, Randall Groot potted one into the open net for a late insurance marker.
It seemed like there should have been exhausted fans slumped in the seats at game’s end. It was another great example of what sport can be. It doesn’t have to be that high priced entertainment for the masses in the model of bread and circuses. It can be as simple as our neighbours joy of effort, the pride of their well-executed teamwork and the excitement of coming back to win a close one. We all know them and they are just like us.
It was a fantastic way to celebrate an evening of hockey excellence right here at home.