The Quesnel Kangaroos extended their unbeaten streak to seven games on the weekend with a 6-4 win over the Terrace River Kings and a 15-4 clobbering of the Lac La Hache Tomahawks.
Sunday’s game against the Tomahawks didn’t start as planned for the ‘Roos as the visitors took a 2-1 lead on just five shots on netminder Josh Levesque, making his first start since Oct. 15, when he was pulled against the same Tomahawks.
“I was a bit nervous, but the guys played well in front of me,” Levesque said.
Offensively the ‘Roos had a whale of a game, including a nine-goal outburst in the final frame.
Leading the way were linemates Paul Girodat and Curtis Gassoff who each collected seven points. Girodat contributed three goals and Gassoff a single.
“Paul Girodat’s line was going quite well,” ‘Roos assistant coach Steve Williams said.
Also lighting the lamp were brothers Alessio and Nick Tomassetti who combined for seven goals.
“I liked the way we went into the third period and put the pedal down,” Williams said.
“It was nice to see some guys bear down and get some goals.
Two of those were Justin Grouette with his first goal of the season and Shawn Fulton with his first pair of goals of the season.
The ‘Roos stepped on the gas right away and by the end of the first period the ‘Roos were ahead 5-2, pummelling Tomahawks netminder William Sellers with 22 shots.
Levesque also made some nice saves to limit the damage, especially a nice glove save on a cross-crease pass with a Kangaroo in the penalty box.
With offence on their minds, the ‘Roos had several defensive lapses, leaving Levesque to fend for himself.
Levesque came up big twice early in the second frame following a turnover in the slot and just a few moments later on a breakaway.
The ‘Roos entered the third period with a 6-3 lead and hungry for more goals and score they did with a nine-goal outburst, outshooting the Tomahawks 21-9.
Defensively the ‘Roos were a bit better than the previous night against the Terrace River Kings, but only marginally so, not enough to impress Williams.
“We gave up a lot of two-on-ones in the first two periods,” Williams said.
“We overplayed in their end and weren’t really shored up in our end.”
Saturday night’s game against the Terrace River Kings was full of individual play, not much on defence and a game of seeing how many players could fit in the penalty box as the teams combined for 131 penalty minutes, 73 of those going to the Kangaroos.
“That was probably our sloppiest game of the year,” Williams said.
Part of that sloppiness was a result of the players skating with a lot of energy in only their second home game, wanting to impress their fans.
But much of that energy was misspent, overplaying the puck and stepping out of position to go make a hit.
At the same time, Williams admitted he wasn’t surprised, saying it was a typical game for a team coming off a big win [against Williams Lake Stampeders, Oct. 22].
“We played as individuals today and didn’t play as a team,” Williams said.
That the ‘Roos penalty box was frequently occupied, sometimes overstuffed, didn’t help matters, as it took away any opportunity for the team to develop a flow to the game.
The Kangaroos not only lead the league in the standings, but also in the penalty minutes column with 294 minutes, compared to 197 for the River Kings.
“We didn’t do anything to stop that this weekend,” Williams said.
“The guys are going to have to take responsibility.”
The ‘Roos opened the scoring against Terrace with a bit of fluke goal by Alessio Tomassetti.
Tomassetti, standing behind the goal line, fired the puck at the net, and the puck somehow dribbled through Terrace netminder, Patrick Leal 1:48 into the first period.
The River Kings got that one back later in the period on a 2-on-1 powerplay goal by Derrick Jurista.
The ‘Roos were lucky to head to the dressing room with the score tied at 1-1 as the River Kings had two goals called back late in the first period.
The ‘Roos opened the second period with three unanswered goals.
Harley Gilks started the ball rolling with a great individual effort that saw him deke Leal out of his jock strap. Gilksè tap in was heading wide of the mark, but a Terrace defenceman kindly redirected the puck with his skate.
Curtis Gassoff and Waylon L’Heureux, followed up with goals of their own, before Jurista scored his second of the game to cut the ‘Roos lead to 4-2.
Elijah Hetu and Chris Jensen upped the score to 6-3 in favour of the ‘Roos before the second period was out.
The River Kings closed out the scoring in the third period, on a goal that typified the ‘Roos play all night.
Several ‘Roos players were caught out of position as they overplayed the puck, trying to get a hit on the puck carrier, leaving ‘Roos netminder Ryan Manderson to fend for himself.
Fortunately, Manderson had another strong game, stopping 29 of 32 shots.
“I’m feeling good out there,” Manderson said.
“The guys are keeping things to the outside which makes it easier for me.”
With 47 goals on the season, the ‘Roos are only second to Williams Lake with 50, offence is clearly not a problem.
Defence on the other hand is another story, but Williams pointed to the weekend games as learning tools, lessons on how they need to play in their own end.
On the other hand, Williams was pleased with the energy level of his players, especially considering they played two games in less than 24 hours.
Williams was also quick to point out that many of the players are training away from the rink and the team is reaping the benefits.
“We have lots of gas left in the third period, that’s a great thing to have,” he said.
“We’re not going to get outworked.”
The Kangaroos are back on the road this weekend with a game in Prince Rupert Saturday against the Rampage and an afternoon game Sunday against the Kitimat Ice Demons.