The Williams Lake Stampeders are headed to the Central Interior Hockey League playoff semifinals.
The Stampeders narrowly hung on to a 4-2 win in game two of the best of three series against the Lac La Hache Tomahawks Saturday in Williams Lake, scoring an empty netter in the dying seconds to put the series on ice.
The two teams sat deadlocked in a 1-1 tie following first-period goals from Williams Lake’s Bill McGinnis and Lac La Hache’s Wade Balbirnie, before Williams Lake ran away with it in the third.
Stuart Sasges put the Stamps up one just 1:07 into the third, before Jassi Sagnha, on a setup from Francis Johnson, notched the game winner on Tomahawks’ netminder Willie Sellars. Lac La Hache’s Robin Gilbert, with just under two minutes remaining, gave Williams Lake a scare, beating Stamps’ goaltender Justin Foote low, blocker side.
McGinnis, just over a minute later, sent the puck into the Tomahawk’s empty net for his second of the game to close out the scoring. McGinnis added an assist on Sasge’s goal earlier to finish the game with three points.
“It was a typical rivalry,” said Stampeders general manager Kelly Kohlen, adding his team’s third-period play was the difference.
“The thing with Lac La Hache all year is they’re good for two periods and by the third period they seem to run out of gas. We just played a stronger third period.”
Sellars, again, kept his team in the contest following a strong game-one performance, turning aside 39 of 42 shots Saturday. Foote, who didn’t see nearly as much action, stopped 25 of 27.
The Stampeders will meet another Cariboo rival next — the Quesnel Kangaroos — who defeated the Omineca Ice 7-1 and 10-5 to advance in their respective series.
Kohlen said it’s going to be a tough, physical series.
“They’re a physical team,” he said. “They like to throw the body quite a bit. The thing is we have to capitalize on the power play a little better and improve on our power play.”
Williams Lake, who holds home ice advantage in the series after finishing third in the CIHL’s regular season, will travel to Quesnel this Saturday, Feb. 9 for game one. Game two will go Saturday, Feb. 16 in Williams Lake at 7:30 p.m., followed by game three, if necessary, on Sunday.