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Tight 3-way race for CIHL west division title shapes up

2 points separate 1st-place Terrace and 3rd-place Hazelton with Rupert in second just one point back
The Prince Rupert Rampage, wearing pink as part of their cancer fundraising campaign, are among three teams with Terrace and Hazelton, vying for the CIHL West title as the season winds down. (Seth Forward/The Northern View)

The CIHL west division could come down to the final game with three teams within two points in the standings as the 2023-2024 season winds down.

The Terrace River Kings currently sit in first at 24 points, the Prince Rupert Rampage have 23 and Hazelton Wolverines are are in third with 22. The Rampage have two games remaining while the River Kings have three and the Wolverines four.

The Rampage won two games in a row on the weekend of Jan. 20, beating out eastern division rivals the Williams Lake Stampeders and the Quesnel Kangaroos.

It was a tight affair at the Jim Ciccone Arena on Jan. 20, when the Rampage faced off against east division front-runners the Stampeders. The Rampage stormed into a 3-0 lead in the first period, with goals from Brody Hemrich, Hunter Johnson and Austin Weir.

Johnson slotted his second goal of the game halfway through the second period to seemingly put the game out of reach for the Stampeders.

However, the game was turned on its head in the third period, with the Stampeders scoring three goals in the first 10 minutes, giving the Rampage a mighty scare. The Rampage held on for a 4-3 win, keeping an impressive home record intact.

The following day, the Rampage faced off against the Kangaroos, easily dispatching the Quesnel team 4-0.

A first-period goal from tough guy Tyler Halliday was followed by three second-period tallies scored by Johnson, captain Kory Movold and Thomas Robinson. Meanwhile goalie Kieran Sharpe recorded his first shutout of the season.

Not to be outdone, though, Terrace also dispatched Williams Lake and Quesnel at home.

The first game saw a tight battle develop between the Kings and Roos until the end of the second period. Quesnel led 3-2 when T Ebeling slipped one past Kangaroos netminder A Wright to tie it. M Mitchell followed that up with another Terrace marker with 31 seconds left on the clock.

The third period was a goaltenders battle, but about halfway through, C Bell scored the insurance goal for the Kings.

Sunday’s game was an even tighter affair. The River Kings were never behind during regulation, but the resilient Stamps, kept it close and tied it 4-4 in the third period necessitating overtime.

The extra period didn’t last long with Ebeling an Mitchell combining to feed A Turner the OT winner at just 0:07.

Hazelton was also in action with just one game hosting the Nechako Northstars who currently sit in third place in the east.

This one remained close for almost two periods and was tied 3-3 before the home team went on a destructive five-goal run starting at 15:06 in the second frame. The five unanswered markers made the final a decisive 8-3.

The Rampage travel to the Bulkley Valley on Jan. 27 to play the Smithers Steelheads before facing the Steelheads again at home on Feb. 3 to close out the regular season.

Terrace is also on the road this weekend for games in Vanderhoof Jan. 27 and Smithers Jan. 28.

While Hazelton has two games in hand over Rupert and one over Terrace, the team has by far the toughest path to the western division title playing all of its final four games on the road. Jan. 27 and 28 the Wolverines are in Quesnel and Williams Lake. The following weekend they travel to Kitimat Feb. 2.

Depending on what happens, though, the west could ultimately be decided in the very last western division game of the season when Terrace and Hazelton have to face each other Feb. 3 in Terrace.

-With files from Seth Forward

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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