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The Kitimat Ice Demons rebounded Friday from a poor performance that let the bye to the Coy Cup finals, 2012, slip away to the Smithers Steelheads – by out-skating an out-muscling the obstinate Williams Lake Stampeders, in a 3-1 semi-final win over their long-time friendly rivals from the Puddle.
It was another close game, all the way, with both teams registering a goal in the first period and battling through an end to end, but scoreless second period.
Again, Kitimat took an early lead in the third period and then battled hard for a late clincher, while goaltender Jamie Moran held the fort behind the hard-working defence.
As usual, when a team is suffering injuries and is short-handed, the goals came both from the expected and the unexpected contributors to a team that would not quit this very touch season. The Ice Demons knew what to expect from the Stampeders, another team that has no quit from opening whistle to final horn.
After having an early goal disallowed and a goaltender interference penalty called, exactly the scenario in game one against Williams Lake, the Demons came back to both sucessfully kill the penalty and take the lead on a dandy goal by Wade Masch, who has been on the very edge of success all tournament, but denied time and again.
That goal came at the 9.24 mark of the first period off a faceoff, won by Masch, who scrambled the puck to line-mate Blaine Markwart, who got it back to him in time to unleash a slick wrister that completely fooled Justin Foote in the Williams Lake net.
As expected the Stampeders came back with a vengeance – but it took them until the16.16 point in the period to get a well-deserved goal after Kitimat-raised Joe Morgan carried the puck hard behind the net,
but was bounced of it by defenseman Justin Bogaert, but saw it go out to Brent McIsaac in front of the net, whose relay to Brandon Cox was fired home over Moran's shoulder with about four bodies crowding his crease.
Demons out-shot the Stampeders12-10 in the opening period and again13-11 in the second period which was highlighted by some terrific work by both goaltenders as the shooters had it going well throughout. Moran stayed down for a while, after a point-blank slap shot caught him high on the shoulder, and shortly thereafter Foote saw one ring high off his mask into the netting above the glass.
Both teams killed a minor penalty in the scoreless period.
In the third,the 1,000 plus fans got what they wanted when hardworking centre, Josh Slanina battled for a puck in the corner, slid it back to Bogaert, who fired a hard worm-burner along the ice to Scott McGregor who had his stick on the ice and deflected a beauty behind Foote to restore the Demons one-goal lead.
From then on it was end to end, but with the Demons winning most of the puck battles while watching the clock tick down. With just under five minutes left in-the game, referee Jim Storey appeared to have stowed his whistle in his pocket, but found it for a cheap cross-check call on David Venman, who was actually having his stick held by a Williams Lake forward. The Ice Demons stoically fought that one off and were battling for an insurance goal in the final minutes. Markwart had a breakaway that was stopped by Foote and then Josh Lund got behind the entire Kitimat team in alone of Moran who blocked hi effort easily.
With Foote pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute Ian Coleman was pulled down by two Williams Lake players, one with his stick around his neck, as he was aiming for the empty net. Instead of calling for a mandatory goal, referee Storey decided Coleman did not have control of the puck and called a hooking penalty instead against Francis Johnson.
With Johnson in the box and just 20 seconds remaining the Demons took nine second to move the puck around and Brent Mailloux finished off the Stampeders with a high shot into the net after Masch won the face-off, passed to Markwart who got a shot and Mailloux picked up the rebound the the right of Foote to score the insurance goal with just11 seconds left in the game – and the crowd roaring.