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REPORTING · 31st January 2010
Allan Hewitson
Late Markwart goal gives Ice Demons first blood in CIHL west Division final – as Demons triumph 3-2

After two "easier games" against Terrace River Kings to end the regular season and two blowouts against the Hazelton Wolverines in round one, the defending CIHL champions, the Kitimat Ice Demons badly needed a tough match to get their own playoffs game in order.

They got it in spades in Smithers, Saturday, but it took a last minute regular time goal by cagey Kitimat veteran, Blaine Markwart, to allow the Demons to take the one game edge back to Kitimat.

With the two teams tied 2-2 in the final minute of regular time and the fans looking forward to more exciting end-to-end hard hitting hockey in overtime, Kitimat defender David Venman took away a puck at centre ice, slid it to Terry Whelan, who saucer passed it to Markwart who came in aloe on Tyler Perreault in the Smithers' net. Markwart took two strides to the top of the left circle and unleashed a rocket to the wide side of the net that beat Perrault, wait high.

With the Steelheads supporter crowd cranked up after the 1500-people Olympic torch ceremony immediately preceding the game outside the arena, a large portion of that crowd piled in to the game.

Both teams appeared ready to apply the same strategy come out hitting hard and get the first goal. But after an enormous Ian Coleman hit behind the net on the first Kitimat foray into the zone, it was Smithers, without a win against Kitimat this season showed better incentive. They pulled it off piling, up six shots to 0 in the first eight minutes, running hard into everything that moved, including Jamie Moran, and his goalposts, as the net came off frequently.

The Steelheads, on the power play, (with Ian Coleman in the box for a high stick) finally got the goal they wanted on a rebound when Randall Groot (Ryan Devries, Ian Smith) got to a rebound in a tight scrum in the Kitimat crease, with just under five minutes gone.

Kitimat had been defending the furious Smithers' onslaught carefully, but Jamie Moran in the net was the difference until the Demons got their bus legs loosened up...

Demons eventually started to get their passing game clicking better and with just under four minutes remaining in the period, a hard point shot from Jeff Baker was cleanly deflected into the open side of the net by Terry Whelan to tie the game at 1-1.

Shots in the first, according to the scoreboard, were Smithers nine and Kitimat six, but it may have seemed for Moran, although the defense was doing a good job of blocking shots.

On Demons attacks in the first and second periods, the Steelheads seemed content to ice the puck frequently.

In a rare scoreless second period, the Steelheads had their big goaltender Tyler Perreault and some hard scrambling defense to thank as Kitimat failed to score on at least four good two-on-one opportunities as the Demons slowly settled into their game and leveled the shot totals. In the second, referee, Korey Martins called three penalties on Smithers and two minors to Kitimat, but neither tea could take advantage.

Kitimat coaches protested a roughing call on Steelheads Brendan Hutchinson as he failed to remove Terry Whelan's head in a high cross check head hit that really deserved more than two minutes.

Demons also lost the services of hard-checking captain, Derek Wakita; with a painful hand injury near the end of the frame...he went to hospital after the game.

The third period had the crowd roaring again as both sides went head to head and end to end...they were treated to what was probably one of the best period of hockey in Smithers this season.

Three minutes into the period Ian Coleman was pulled down on a breakaway and Martens pointed to the centre spot for a penalty shot. But Perreault, backing up, limited Coleman's deke ability and smothered his late shot. The crowd erupted.

But, with eight minutes remaining Ian Coleman made up for that miss when he turned a behind the net pass from Daniel Mayer into a nice goal, back handing it high into the twine, to give Demons the 2-1 lead.

That re-energized the Steelheads and they exerted a lot of pressure and
again, on the power play, tied the game with just 3.47 remaining, when captain Darryl Young extended his own scoring streak, this time sliding a fortuitous rebound from a Devries shot under Moran.

The fans were in frenzy as it looked like the game was headed for overtime. The Smithers defense however was looking too far ahead and tiring and with just 59 seconds left, Terry Whelan relayed Venman’s take-away to Blaine Markwart, skating just inside the blue line. Markwart silenced the crowd with the perfect shot that left one Smithers defenseman on his knees cradling his head.

These two teams will both go at it again for a spot in the league finals next Saturday in Kitimat, where the bigger ice should favor Kitimat's speed.
Kitimat’s Kory Finn also left the game, late in the third period, after he was involved in a big hit with Dan Dykens and took an accidental knee in the back, going down.
 
Meanwhile, in Williams Lake, the East Division winning Houston Luckies got what they wanted against the Coy Cup Champion Stampeders as they edged the Stamps 5-4 in their opening game...to bring the edge back to Houston this coming weekend.