The Williams Lake Stampeders advanced to the Central Interior Hockey League Final Sunday after a gruelling three-game series with the Quesnel Kangaroos.
Matt Lees deflected a shot from Nathan Zurak on a power play to score the series winner in a 6-5 overtime victory Sunday afternoon at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
Game one went to the Kangaroos, 6-5, on Jan. 31, before the series shifted to Williams Lake. Game two on Saturday in the lakecity also went to overtime — a 4-3 win with Dylan Richardson providing the heroics.
“It was a little closer than we’d liked it,” said Stampeders general manager Marko Zurak. “But you’ve got to give them [Quesnel] credit. That was probably the best hockey they’ve played all year.”
Lees (2-0-2), Nathan (1-2-3), Travis Sanderson (1-0-1) and David Gore (2-0-2) provided scoring in Sunday’s contest for the Stampeders, while Curtis Gassoff (1-1-2), Ryan Hanes (2-0-2), Justin Fulton (1-0-1) and Joey MacDonald (1-0-1) tallied for the Kangaroos.
Stampeders captain Aaron Zurak noted nothing came easy in the series for either team.
“It was two hard, fast-paced games,” Aaron said. “Both teams came to play hockey and it was right down to the end. Neither team really let up. Their goalie played awesome and the whole team played well. We didn’t get any easy goals and neither did they.”
Now, in the CIHL final, Williams Lake will square off with the Terrace River Kings, who dispatched the Smithers Steelheads, 5-4, on Sunday to advance in a close three-game series.
Williams Lake’s only loss in a 15-1 regular season came versus the River Kings.
“We had an off game but they’re a really good team,” Aaron said. “I’ve been saying this for a couple of years — they keep getting better and better and this year they’ve got a couple new guys who are really going to help them out and have a big impact. Their goalie’s (Patrick Leal) also one of the top in the league, so it’s not going to be easy to score.”
Game one of the series goes this Saturday in Terrace, before the series moves to Williams Lake for game two and, if necessary game three, on Feb. 21-22.
Puck drop for game two in the lakecity goes at 7:30 p.m., before Sunday’s tilt begins at 1:30 p.m. if required.