The Quesnel Kangaroos came away from their home-ice weekend doubleheader with two out of a possible four points, yet didn’t lose a game.
This mathematical curiosity occurred due to a big win Friday night against the Nechako North Stars out of Vanderhoof, then had to shed their gear and hand out refunds at the door on Saturday night when the second game had to be cancelled at the last minute (beyond the last minute, actually).
The Kangaroos (Roos) and North Stars (Stars) put on a classic hockey show for a near-capacity crowd that was salted heavily with the many local and out-of-town visitors participating in the U13 tournament hosted by Quesnel the same weekend, including a Vanderhoof entry.
The North Stars gave their klatch of fans something to cheer for right away, opening the scoring when Jett Saharchuk blocked a shot just inside his own blue line, pounced on the deflected puck into the neutral zone, and went on a full-speed breakaway that ended in a deadly wrister past Quesnel goalie Alex Wright.
Quesnel responded when Bryan Allbee fired a laser of his own, at speed, but this one was from a sharp angle that beamed over the shoulder of North Stars goalie Dixon Loewen.
A few short minutes later, the Roos caught the Stars on a broken play and went in on a tight 3-on-1. Vanderhoof had no time to regroup before Ian Jarvis converted on the textbook passing of Justin Fulton and Eli Jarvis.
The first period ended 2-1, close and exciting for the fans.
The second period felt like the ice tilted in the Roos’ favour, with a number of Grade-A chances presented to them.
There were few whistles to bog down the flow, and both teams broke out of their own end with authority, but there was no question Quesnel had the advantage in offensive zone puck possession. It showed on the shot clock, with the Roos heavily outshooting the Stars, but the stellar play of acrobatic Loewen kept Vanderhoof close on the scoreboard that mattered. It was still just 2-1 when the final five minutes of the second period began to tick down.
That’s when Quesnel finally found a chink in the North Stars’ armour. If the Roos were breaking through under normal circumstances, the Stars certainly couldn’t repel them on the power play, which is how Roos captain Alessio Tomassetti found himself alone in the bumper position, took a feed from the deep corner, and snapped it home for a 3-1 lead.
Rather than giving in to the siege, however, the Stars shook the adversity off and roared back almost immediately. They were getting a flurry of Grade-B chances, and on a shift of sustained pressure, Jim Silver and Graeme Lodge worked together to feed Kalen Bird for a prime shot to the back of the net with only a minute left in the second. The period ended with the score Quesnel 3, Nechako 2 and the fans dizzy with anticipation.
Only two minutes into the final frame, the Roos reestablished the two-goal advantage. Brody Dyck and Ryan Keis worked the puck to Chad Kimmie who drove the net, held the puck when Loewen committed to a short-side shot that never came, and had the entire far side of the net wide open for a wraparound deposit.
Vanderhoof did not mount a spirited counterattack, this time. Wright was only tested with one prime chance, a Saharchuk one-timer off a close feed, but the Quesnel minder shot that missile down.
When North Stars defender Brenden Stephen, who had a solid game on Nechako’s behalf, took a penalty with five minutes remaining, it allowed the Roos all the clock-killing they would need to hold the two-goal lead. The score didn’t change, even when the Stars pulled the goalie for the extra attacker. It ended 4-2, giving the Kangaroos an overall record of eight wins and three losses in the Central Interior Hockey League regular season, with three away games and one home game (as yet unscheduled) remaining.
The North Stars record falls to 4-7 on the season.
The Kangaroos would have wrapped up their last home game of the season the night after the win over Nechako, but mechanical fate shot that plan over the boards. The Smithers Steelheads were supposed to be arriving for that tilt, but their bus malfunctioned on the way.
Fans had been warned that the game was experiencing a scheduling challenge. First, it was deferred to an 8:30 p.m. start (an hour delay) and then it was outright cancelled.
Fans were clearly disappointed, but there was consensus understanding. The team allowed each fan on their way out to receive a refund or an autograph from a player on their Jan. 14 ticket that would allow them into the make-up game whenever that date is announced.
The Roos players and fans had an enjoyable exchange in the West Fraser Centre lobby as the reluctant exit occurred.
“It’s a safety thing, so no one can blame the Steelheads for something like that, it’s just unfortunate and we will figure something out. I know all those players wanted to play the game as badly as we did,” said Tomassetti, after the game.