For the first time in their three-year history, the Prince Rupert Rampage will be heading to the second round of the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) playoffs.
Led by Brett Stava’s four-goal performance, the Rampage beat the Hazelton Wolverines 7-2 last night and went on to win the best-of-three series in the first round of the CIHL playoffs.
Rampage coach Frank Pyde said winning the first round of the playoffs was one of the goals set by the team at the beginning of the season. With last night’s win, he said the team feels a huge sense of accomplishment.
Rupert’s first goal was scored within the first minute of the game, as Rob Millar let a shot go from the top of the circle and found the top corner of Hazelton’s net. Rupert then fought hard for the next 10 minutes of the period, but Wolverines goalie Cody Smith stopped a barrage of shots in the first half of the first frame.
But Pyde said he wasn’t worried when Rupert didn’t seem to be able to solve Smith. “When you apply pressure like that, sooner or later the wall’s going to crack,” he said. “I would’ve been more worried if we weren’t applying pressure.”
Indeed, the wall could only stand up for so long, and by the end of the first period, Rupert had scored three more goals and went into the dressing room with a 4-0 lead.
The Rampage would score only one goal in the 2nd period, Stava’s third. He would go on to notch another one in the third period as Rupert cruised through the final frame, winning 7-2.
Pyde said he was concerned his players wouldn’t keep up the pressure for the entire 60 minutes of the game. “If you let off on that, you finish the game on a low, not a high,” he said.
And especially going into the next round, Pyde didn’t want any kind of a let-down, especially since the games will now start to get tighter. In last night’s other West division action, the Kitimat Ice Demons edged the Terrace River Kings 3-2, scoring the final goal in the last minute of play.
“Kitimat will definitely be a lot more challenging,” said Pyde, predicting that the next series will a more defensive affair with lower scores.
In the regular season, the Rampage won three of four games they played against the Ice Demon, including a 6-3 win on Kitimat’s ice. “Mentally, we’re carrying the momentum into that series,” said Pyde.
The puck will drop on the first game of round two this Saturday, February 5, in Kitimat.
~Written by Chris Armstrong