For the third straight year the Smithers Steelheads are the Central Interior Hockey League champions.
And for the third straight year, it came against a snake-bitten Williams Lake Stampeders squad who, after an 8-4 shellacking of the Steelheads Saturday, couldn’t find the energy in a do-or-die game three Sunday to put the Smithers club away, losing 5-2.
After falling behind in the series following a 3-2 road loss on Feb. 22, the Stamps put on a show of speed and skill in game two of the series, serving notice the Steelheads’ path to the championship would not be easy.
Five minutes in Williams Lake took the lead with a tally from Jassi Sangha, but the Steelheads answered back with one of their own shortly after.
Up 2-1 in the second following a late first-period goal from Aaron Zurak, the Stamps added two more (Stuart Sages, David Gore) to lead 4-1 heading into the final frame.
In the third they put the game out of reach with two quick goals from Nathan Zurak and Tyrel Lucas, before Sasges and Jared Kohlen wrapped up the scoring in the 8-4 win, forcing Sunday afternoon’s winner-take-all.
The following day the Steelheads appeared to have regrouped, forcing the puck in deep, forechecking hard and taking space away from the speedy Stamps.
Williams Lake did have its chances early on as the Steelheads gave up a half-dozen odd-man rushes, including three breakaways and a penalty shot.
Steelheads’ netminder Tyler Perreault, however, stopped them all, silencing the Stampeders and the Williams Lake crowd.
Lucas would draw first blood midway through the first period, before Steelheads’ forward Adam DeVries evened it up three minutes later on the power play, scoring on Stamps’ netminder Justin Foote, who stopped 31 of 36 shots in the contest.
Smithers’ forward Darryl Young and Lucas each tallied in the second, sending the game into the third at a 2-2 deadlock.
In the third, Young went to work, notching a hat trick to almost singlehandedly takeover the game.
“All of those goals were the result of great plays by my teammates,” Young said. “I was just circling and they got me the puck.”
Smithers’ Ryan DeVries was named playoff MVP.
The Williams Lake Stampeders will now turn their attention to the Coy Cup senior men’s ‘AA’ provincial hockey championship next week, March 11-15, in Williams Lake.
– With files from the Smithers Interior News