Williams Lake Stampeder Paul Girodat tips a point shot past Kitimat Ice Demons netminder Jamie Moran during the third period of Sunday’s third and final game of the CIHL playoffs; however

Williams Lake Stampeder Paul Girodat tips a point shot past Kitimat Ice Demons netminder Jamie Moran during the third period of Sunday’s third and final game of the CIHL playoffs; however

Stampeders two-peat as CIHL champs

The Kitimat Ice Demons stared blankly at the ice, the thought of what slipped through their fingers likely on their minds.

The Kitimat Ice Demons stared blankly at the ice, the thought of what slipped through their fingers likely on their minds.

Meanwhile, Jeff Gagnon and his Williams Lake Stampeders linemates Curtis Gassoff and Paul Girodat joined a chorus of cheers in celebration from hundreds of boisterous fans at the Cariboo Memorial Complex as Gagnon lit the lamp near the midway point of the third period to score what held up as the game-winner in Sunday’s Central Interior Hockey League Playoff Final.

Gagnon’s goal broke a 6-6 tie for Williams Lake, who pulled off a heroic comeback after falling behind 5-2 after one period.

Facing elimination after a game one loss last weekend in Kitimat, Williams Lake put its best foot forward on Saturday night taking game two of the best-of-three series with a 5-3 win to setup Sunday’s clash for the Rio Tinto Alcan Cup championship.

Sunday, Kitimat struck early and struck with purpose. The Ice Demons out-skated the Stampeders for the first 20 minutes and appeared to be sailing away with the championship.

Kitimat’s Nick Markowski opened the scoring 6:47 into the frame, chopping a puck past Stampeders goaltender Justin Foote from his stomach in front of the net, before Williams Lake’s Aaron Zurak evened out the score at 1-1.

For the remainder of the period, the ice was largely tilted in Kitimat’s favour. The Demons added to their early lead with goals from Ian Coleman, Steven Venman and Derek Wakita potted two while Girodat would add another for Williams Lake.

In the second — much to the delight of the hometown crowd — the Stampeders sprung to life.First, Francis Johnson cut the deficit to two goals. But, just 37 seconds later, Kitimat’s Terry Whelan put his team, again, up by three after hammering a slap shot from the slot past Foote on a two on one.

Not to be outdone, just 13 seconds later, Girodat used the ensuing faceoff to march down the ice and put his team within two goals.

Stuart Sasges, finishing a nice setup from Jason Wright, would make it 6-5 after beating Demons’ netminder Jamie Moran 9:18 into the frame, before Johnson added his second of the contest to even up the score at 6-6 heading into the third.

There, 10:33 into the period, Gagnon potted the game winner top shelf on Moran after receiving a nice setup from linemates Girodat and Gassoff.

This is the second straight year the Stampeders have won the Rio Tinto Alcan Cup.

Following the trophy presentation Foote was named playoff MVP.

“It feels great,” said Stampeders general manger Don Hanson. “Our guys worked hard all year long and this is what they work for.”

Hanson also acknowledged the Ice Demons for a great series.

“I kind of feel a bit sorry for them,” he said, noting the Ice Demons played without two of their top scorers in the lineup. “Somebody had to lose and we were on the lucky end of the stick.

“Sunday, I think they [the players] all realized it was going to be the end of the season if they didn’t perk up [after the first period]. It was a good game.”

The Stampeders and the Ice Demons will now both head to the Coy Cup senior men’s provincial hockey championship in Prince Rupert from March 8-12 and will be joined by the CIHL West Division’s tournament host Prince Rupert Rampage and the ‘AAA’ Powell River Regals of the West Coast Senior Men’s Hockey League.

Joining the Williams Lake roster for the Coy Cup will be former Stampeder Phil Simoes — who played this past season with the Omineca Ice — David Cadsand (who played with Williams Lake in the CIHL playoffs) and 100 Mile House’s Jordan Winkel.

Hanson said the team will be looking to bring home another Coy Cup championship after winning the tournament for the first time in 2009.

“When we go to Rupert we’re going to have to be a little more ready to play right from the drop of the puck,” he said.

“Everybody’s going to be there with their best and their full load and you won’t be able to fall behind four goals up there and recuperate so easily and I think our guys realize they were fortunate to do that [on Sunday].

“Hopefully they can maintain a littler more ambition right from the drop of the puck and we’re hoping to come home a winner.”

To help with travel costs to the tournament, the Stampeders are hosting a dinner and silent auction with door prizes downstairs at Boston Pizza this Saturday, March 5 from 4:30 to 9 p.m.

Tickets are $20 and are available at the door or by calling Hanson at 250-392-2430.