It was about as good a start to 2013 as the Williams Lake Stampeders could have asked for.
Saturday, the Stampeders did what hadn’t been done in 32 games — they defeated the Smithers Steelheads and former National Hockey League netminder Mike Wall, 6-3, in front of 600 fans at the Civic Arena in Smithers.
Sunday, Williams Lake carried its momentum to a clash with the Houston Luckies in Burns Lake on neutral ice, winning 6-5 and, with it, clinching the Central Interior Hockey League East Division title with just two games remaining in the regular season.
Stampeders general manager Kelly Kohlen said it was an outstanding effort by his club in Smithers, adding it was the team’s best game this season.
“We played a full 60 minutes of hockey,” Kohlen said. “We kept the pressure on and we got more shots this time around [than earlier in the season].”
Williams Lake’s Jassi Sangha had the hot hand for the Stamps, notching a hat trick to put his team up 4-2 with four seconds left in the second period.
In the third Francis Johnson and Nathan Zurak sealed the deal. Matt Lees notched the other Stampeder goal early in the second for the Stamps.
For Smithers just Eric Smith, Ian Smith and Darryl Young were able to beat Williams Lake netminder Justin Foote through 41 shots.
Wall, who leads the league in wins, goals against average and save percentage, turned aside 34 shots in the losing effort.
“I don’t think he had his best game but he doesn’t let too many past him,” Kohlen said. “I think that’s the most any team’s scored on him.”
Smithers went a perfect 18-0 last year before moving on to win the league playoff championship over the Stampeders. Up until Saturday’s contest the Steelheads were 15-0 this season.
“It’s a big win for us — a huge win,” Kohlen said.
Sunday, Williams Lake fell behind early before battling back in the second to overwhelm the Luckies.
Sangha, again, showed up big lighting the lamp on Houston’s Brock Hendrickson twice.
Aaron Zurak, Nathan (2G) and Johnson — who also had three assists — rounded out the scoring for the Stampeders.
With both wins Williams Lake improves to 11-4-1 with two games remaining in its regular season.
Next, this Friday, Williams Lake hosts the 6-9-1 Lac La Hache Tomahawks at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex for its final home game of the regular season at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, the Stamps head to Quesnel to face the Kangaroos to close out its season.