For the third straight year the Williams Lake Stampeders and the Smithers Steelheads will lock horns in the final of the Central Interior Hockey League playoffs.
The Stampeders needed two back-to-back wins last weekend in the semifinal against the Quesnel Kangaroos to keep their Sullivan Motor Products (SMP) Cup hopes alive and did just that, putting together two solid outings in front of boisterous crowds both Saturday and Sunday at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
Smithers, last year’s SMP Cup champions, needed just two games to dispose of the Terrace River Kings, winning 8-2 and 4-1, respectively.
Williams Lake, meanwhile, picked up a 7-3 win Saturday and a 7-2 decision Sunday to advance to the final over the Kangaroos.
Both teams kept the score close Saturday until the third period, when the Stampeders opened the flood gates on Quesnel netminder Ryan Manderson.
Matt Lees (2-0-2), David Gore (2-2-4), Jassi Sangha (1-2-3), Tyler Fuller (1-0-1) and Nathan Zurak (1-0-1) scored in the winning effort for Williams Lake, while Nick Tomassetti and Justin Fulton tallied for the visiting side.
Sunday it was Stuart Sasges (1-0-1), Tyrel Lucas (1-2-3), Zurak (2-0-2), Sangha (1-1-2), Andrew Fisher (1-2-3) and Gore (1-1-2) providing the offensive punch for the Stamps who, again, capitalized on three unanswered second-period goals to lure Quesnel away from its game plan. Finding the twine for Quesnel were David Gordin (1-0-1) and Tyrell Turgeon (1-0-1).
Williams Lake goaltender Justin Foote turned aside 25 shots Saturday and another 22 shots Sunday.
In both games Williams Lake was able to shrug off attempts by the Kangaroos to goad them into Quesnel’s physical, scrappy style of play.
The CIHL final begins this Saturday, Feb. 22, with game one in Smithers. Williams Lake will carry home-ice advantage into the series after finishing the regular season in first place with a 13-4-1 record. Smithers, meanwhile, finished in second place with a 12-5-1 regular-season record.
Game two and, if necessary, game three of the best-of-three series will be played in Williams Lake the following weekend on March 1 and 2. Game time March 1 is 7:30 p.m., followed by a 1:30 p.m. puck drop March 2.