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CONTRIBUTION · 29th November 2009
Allan Hewitson
Demons bus breakdown in snow-storm leads to game with Hazelton Wolverines ending at midnight

The final score certainly didn’t tell the long saga of this game – 7 to 5 Kitimat over the determined Wolverines. The game started after nine p.m. and ended at five minutes to midnight on an un-assisted empty net goal by Daniel Mayer.

The Demons' bus broke down en route to Hazelton on a lonely, snowy, slush-covered stretch of Skeena river-side highway with no radio, no other means of communication, no cell phone service. Not even a carrier pigeon!

Fortunately there was a hardworking snow-plow driver and finally a local Mountie, with a well-working radio system, who pulled up at the stranded bus.

The snow plow driver (thanks go out to these guys pushing back the snow on these dangerous roads) contacted base, who contacted Farwest Bus Lines, who sent mechanics and another bus.

Meanwhile, there was a great deal of conjecture whether this would turn into a two point forfeiture or whether Kitimat would get out of there, back on the road and play the game.

Rescue was on the way, but from Kitimat, not Terrace as was expected. The second bus arrived, the Demons got to Kitwanga, found cell phone service, checked with Hazelton, (where game time had come and gone), yet the players and fans were still waiting, eating out the concession.

Kitimat arrived just before 9 p.m. had a 10-minute warm-up and six hours after departure from Kitimat the first puck drop hit the ice and it was game on.

The 15-1 loss of two weeks ago was obviously “history” and the Wolverines were hungry. They also, fortunately, had some new faces in the line up - but were still pretty un-coordinated, until it came to some big hits.

They were throwing them, but some Kitimat players, irritated and hungry, ticked off by the delayed game, smacked back, hard.

Period one was action-filled, nine shots each, a single goal each - first by Demons' newest ace sniper Jonnie Aiken, with just less than three minutes gone.

He snapped a Blaine Markwart past and high behind Cory Cross. However, just under six minutes later, Al Tolmie tied it with a hard accurate shot from the top of the circle, a shot that took Brett Vilness by surprise as he began moving across the net looking for a pass into the middle.

Demons didn't look like bus legs were much of a factor, passing slickly, maybe sometimes too slickly or too often, squandering some great chances.

Wolverines met the attack with some blistering hard board hits and the Demons hit back. Fans were getting ready for a big tilt or two, but it didn’t happen.

In period two the Wolverines took a 2-1 lead, against the run of play with the first of only two shots in the period. The shot went in, tipped by Curtis Cardinal getting his stick on Colin Jack's point shot to redirect it behind Vilness.

Demons came roaring back and tied the game at 2-2 less than three minutes later on a goal by team captain, Derek Wakita, from Geoff Morgan and Blaine Markwart, while Croft was on his back doing the snow angel.

Then, mysteriously, the Wolverines just stopped skating and the Demons passed the puck around for the rest of the period, missing far too many great chances from their 13 shots as Cory Croft stood on his head to keep the score tied.

He did it to appreciative roars from the small remaining crowd. The Wolverines only had two shots at Vilness in the period and seemed mesmerized by the Demons' speed even in the small confines of the Hazelton barn.

The third period was more like the first as the Wolverines stepped up to the plate again and took a 3-2 lead with Curtis Cardinal showing he still has the strength and skill to do it on his own, although assists went to Colin Jack and Brandon Russell.

Then it was the Demons turn to play the way they can, and just like the second period they launched an all out offensive that saw the game tied at 3-3 on a goal by Jonnie Aiken (Daniel Mayer, Jeff Mildenberger) that silenced the cheers less than a minute later.

Demons quickly ran that score to 6-3 on goals by Terry Whelan (Daniel Mayer, Derek Wakita) Daniel Mayer, (Aiken, Mildenberger) and Kyle Boudreault (Greg Sabey and Kory Finn) and it seemed over.

About that time referee Chris Daniels seemed to put the whistle away and some rough stuff erupted with Trent Potskin getting away with a couple and then getting caught for a blatant blind-side roughing.

Play slowed as everybody expected a penalty call on another roughing sequence in the Hazelton end, but Cardinal just kept skating and got in alone on Vilness to make it 6-4.

Encouraged, the Wolverines pushed some more and a great Cardinal pass found Landon Vipond on top of Vilness in the crease and he deflected the puck to make it 6-5 and delirium erupted.

Suddenly the clock had more minutes on it than the last announced goal, but Daniels caught it. Cory Croft went to the bench for an extra attacker and with the extra seconds taken off, Daniel Mayer coolly iced the game with an empty-netter making it 7 to 5 with 14 seconds to play.

This game was a thriller, deserved after the long day but the Wolverines won’t hit the win column with roughing and wrestling and only one guy scoring against a team like the Ice Demons. The team seems to be finding its legs, more and more, and gave quite a passing show without back off in the hitting department.

Fortunately a disorganized Terrace team is still the Haze in the standings.

Thanks too, to the Hazelton concession staff, who worked hard to put together a big batch of midnight hamburger meals for the famished Kitimat players to gobble down in the bus on the noisy, but uneventful trip home.

In other games the Smithers Steelheads took advantage of the hullabaloo in the River Kings organization to take a 12-1 win in Terrace, while the Omineca Ice made things interesting in Vanderhoof, taking advantage of a short Williams Lake bench to win the Saturday night game by a score of 3-2.

In the only other game the Houston Luckies controlled most of the play to beat local rivals the Burns Lake Braves 5-2 to tighten up the East Division standings.

The Demons are home to the Prince Rupert Rampage this coming Saturday.