The Terrace River Kings are the Central Interior Hockey League Champions and have now earned a berth at the Coy Cup Senior Men’s ‘AA’ Hockey Championship.
The River Kings staved off a third-period surge by the Williams Lake Stampeders to take the third and deciding game of the CIHL playoff final, 2-1.
River Kings netminder Jared Rathjen — a former Western Hockey League goaltender with the Vancouver Giants, the Victoria Royals and the Prince George Cougars — was lights out in the contest, thwarting everything the Stamps had to throw at him.
“It was an unreal series,” River Kings head coach Kevin Legros said. “Both teams played incredibly hard. Credit to Williams Lake. Their goalie was outstanding. I’m just super proud of my boys. [Jared] is a phenomenal goalie. He’s so calm. I don’t know what to say about him.”
Stampeders head coach Dave Lauzon made no excuses about the loss, also pointing to Rathjen’s performance.
“It was a good year,” he said. “We just ran into a hot goalie. [Justin] Foote [Stampeders’ goaltender] played good for us, too. It’s just one bad bounce at the end of the game but what do you do?”
Williams Lake won game one of the series on the road in Terrace 4-2, then were defeated 5-4 in triple overtime Saturday night in Williams Lake, before dropping the 2-1 decision Sunday afternoon to wrap up the series.
Scoring the lone tally for Williams Lake Sunday was David Gore, while Luke Gordon and Corbin Legros scored for the River Kings.
“That was tiring — real hard on the head [Saturday],” Lauzon said. “I’ve been involved in hockey a long time and never been in one that long. A real roller coaster game.”
Terrace will now join the Kelowna Sparta, the Whitehorse Huskies and the North Island Capitals (Port Hardy/Port McNeil) at the Coy Cup being held in Whitehorse, Yukon.
In preparation for next season, the Stampeders are hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, Dance and Auction this Friday, March 17 in the Gibraltar Room at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex. They’ll also be hosting a golf tournament on June 10 at the Williams Lake Golf and Tennis Club.
The event Friday includes a dinner, a DJ and dancing, a silent auction, a live auction, a cash bar and a free, safe ride home.
“We’re really gearing up for it and it should be a good time,” said Stampeders past president Marko Zurak, who is helping organize the event alongside the executive.
As for auction items, Zurak said the community has been more than generous.
“We have quite a few things already and the community’s sure been generous supplying us with auction items so we can do this,” he said.
Doors to the event will open at 5:30 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $50 each or, there is an option to buy a table to get two bottles of complimentary wine and reserved VIP seating for $400.
Zurak has been involved with the Stampeders since 1999 and said he’s enjoyed every year of it, and noted he thinks it’s important for the community to support the hometown team.
“The Stampeders’ first hockey game in Williams Lake was in 1936,” he said. “We’re not a business. We’re an old, established, piece of history.
“We’re definitely just trying to host a fundraiser to get the community involved. I think it would be awesome to get enough funding done before September and we could apply to host the Coy Cup. Look at the crowds we had last time we hosted. The games were sold out.”
Tickets for the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, Dance and Auction can be purchased at Dairy Queen, Crosina Realty and Margetts Meats, or by calling Janna Gertzen at 250-305-9788.