The sounds of a packed West Fraser Centre will once again return along with the Central Interior Hockey League playoffs on Saturday, March 5.
The Quesnel Kangaroos will be facing off against the Williams Lake Stampeders in the league’s semi-finals. Prince Rupert and Terrace will play in the other semi-final.
Regular season games throughout the year were only able to be played with half capacity, but the playoffs will allow for over a thousand fans to file into the West Fraser Centre.
Kangaroos captain Alessio Tomassetti said the players are itching to get back on the ice after a first round bye.
“We’re feeling pretty good, our lineup is looking strong,” he said.
“Our practices have been high-tempo, a lot of skating and we’re going into our first round with our heads high, ready to go.”
The Roos were given a first round bye by being the top team in their division which includes Williams Lake and Nechako. Williams Lake defeated the expansion North Stars 2-0 in a series on Feb. 18 and Feb. 19.
The two teams have played three times in the 2021/2022 season, with Quesnel winning the season series 2-1 after wins on Oct. 17 and Dec. 18. Williams Lake won a game 7-4 on Nov. 27.
Quesnel outscored Williams Lake 20-12, thanks to an 11-1 win on Dec. 18 at the West Fraser Centre.
Tomassetti said the consensus before the season began was Williams Lake might be in a bit of a rebuilding year, but their players have come together nicely.
“Down the stretch, they’ve pulled some wins together, and they’re looking as good as they have all year,” he said.
“They have a lot of younger guys coming into their system, and sometimes that can lead to success. New faces, they all bind to a good system and it all comes together.”
Throughout the 2022 season, the Kangaroos have been excellent generating chances in transition. Tomassetti said their high number of odd-man rushes come down to their speed throughout their roster.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve gotten some younger faces into the lineup,” he said.
“As soon as the puck turns over, we’re going back the other ways. There’s a lot of skill in our team, guys are making that one pass that beats two guys.”
The Kangaroos will be looking to three-peat as CIHL playoff champions, and host the Coy Cup, the province’s AA senior hockey championship, as they were scheduled to in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a cancellation.
The winners of the CIHL league will get the right to host the Coy Cup in 2022, and the Kangaroos are aiming to do just that.
“That’s our goal,” Tomassetti said of hosting the Coy Cup.
“If we can pull this through, we would have a really good shot at winning the Coy, but we still have to get through four games to advance.”
The three-game series kicks off in Williams Lake on Friday, March 4, with game two coming back to Quesnel for Saturday March 6 at 7:30 p.m. Game three, if necessary, will be at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 7 at the West Fraser Centre.
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