One of the most heated rivalries in the NPHL will kick off tonight when the Grande Prairie Athletics welcome the Spirit River Rangers to town to faceoff against one another for the first of two games this week and the first time since the Rangers eliminated the Athletics in the NPHL West division semi-finals last season 4 games to 2.
Spirit River would eventually go on to win the Campbell Cup but no matter what happens in tonight’s game it will have nothing to do or erase the Athletics disappointment in March of last year. There is no such thing as revenge in the regular season to make amends for a playoff series loss.
The most important aspect and what can be gained from tonight is an all important two points in what should be yet again another tight Western Division race in the NPHL the remainder of the season.
Last season the Athletics finished on top of the regular season standings but it took until the last game of the season when the Rangers dropped their final game in Fort St. John to help the Athletics secure home ice advantage in the playoffs.
As has been the case for the past couple years each team would face each other in the semi-final in another hard fought divisional matchup. Last season the Rangers walked away with the series win, the year before it was the Athletics. Needless to say there is no love lost between the two clubs.
While the Athletics are already entering their third game of the year, tonight will mark the start of the NPHL season for Spirit River. Grande Prairie is off and running at 2-0 but know full well that two points against a divisional rival could be the difference for gaining home ice advantage when the post season arrives in early February.
In 2012-2013 the Athletics controlled the season series going 3 and 1 with the lone loss coming towards the end of the regular season. Grande Prairie will once again look to a strong early season start and try to take advantage of a Rangers team who will be entering just their first contest of the season.
With plenty of new faces on both clubs it may take awhile for both teams to reacquaint with one another but knowing the rivalry it shouldn’t take long for either club to reignite.
Join us tonight at the Coca Cola Centre for A’s hockey. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:30pm.