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Quesnel Kangaroos won their way into the Coy Cup

They might be the host team, but they are also genuine contenders

It’s hard to script a more sensational setup to the 2023 Coy Cup for the Quesnel Kangaroos.

After having their 2020 bid to host the tournament displaced by the global pandemic, the pieces tumbled into place for the storied Senior-AA hockey club. They were granted the 2023 hosting duties to make up for the event they missed, but they did not rely on the automatic host team bye to take part in the action. They roared through the regular Central Interior Hockey League season, taking the CIHL league with an overall record of 12 wins, three losses, one overtime loss.

That gave them a total of 25 points, one more than their Cariboo rivals the Williams Lake Stampeders. Their other East Division opponents were the Smithers Steelheads with 15 points and the Nechako North Stars out of Vanderhoof with 12 points. Another key statistic for the Roos was goal differential, scoring 94 while only allowing 59 against.

The Kangaroos also came out ahead of the West Division CIHL teams, which saw the Prince Rupert Rampage take first place with 24 points, followed by the Terrace River Kings with 21, the Hazelton Wolverines with 15, and the rebuilding Kitimat Ice Demons with only two points earned in a pair of overtime losses.

The first place finish in the regular season gave them a bye through the first round of playoffs. They ended up meeting the Nechako North Stars in the first round, and swept that series in two games.

Then came the West Division playoff challengers Terrace River Kings. The team from the Skeena won Game 1 in their rink, in overtime. When it switched to Quesnel for Game 2, it was the Kangaroos who won in overtime, sending it to a third and deciding game. It was close, but the Roos pulled out the win in the end.

It means the Kangaroos go into the Coy Cup showdown as the champions, not the obligatory host.

“Obviously we knew that we would be hosting this year, and so we have been talking about it all year,” said Kangaroos winger Jordan Draper. “We had a lot of buy-in this year from guys making it on our road trips, and all that was leading towards this. It feels awesome, and it’s very exciting. For the guys that were a part of the team that was supposed to host this back in 2020, I’m sure it feels like a long time coming and again, just really exciting to have it finally get here.”

“I believe the team we have this year is the best team we have had since I started playing in 2019-2020,” said centre/winger Eli Jarvis. “Everyone has bought into what we want to do and accomplish this season. We all have a role and everybody is buying in to be the best they can at their job on the team and we’ve shown that by coming up on top of our league. I think no matter what sport or what league you play in, we are fortunate enough to compete in a tournament that’s been around for 100 years and that’s exciting and something we’ve been looking forward to since we announced we’re hosting it before the season.”

“This year, a lot of different guys played key roles and that was great to see,” said Draper, who switched from right to left wing interchangeably, depending on team need. “We wanted to win our way to the Coy and not just get in by default, and we accomplished that goal. Now we have one more goal to accomplish before we can be fully satisfied.”

Jarvis said the buy-in wasn’t confined to the players. The community stepped up for the team in many different ways, he said, such as volunteers, sponsors, coaches, past players, players’ families, municipal workers, the coaches and other team officials, and most especially the fans. The players took notice and fed off that.

“We wouldn’t be successful without all the help and support,” Jarvis said. “This tournament is an awesome chance to watch some good hockey that will give an opportunity for the best Senior teams in B.C. to compete for a historical championship. We’re a very close group. Guys were laying out for shots, buying into each other, and doing whatever it took to get the job done in the finals. I loved the way we won, too. We were 44 seconds away from losing two straight and we managed to tie it up, win in overtime, and come back the next day after being down like that and winning our league. It shows we don’t crumble through adversity. Now we have even that much more confidence going into the Coy Cup tournament and I think that’s needed going into a very competitive five-day tournament. We’re all excited about playing in the very loud West Fraser Center and I think it’s a great event for our community.”

Draper said, “being on the big stage for this level will be extremely fun. For a lot of guys this is as big as it gets, and to be a part of that, I’m really looking forward to it. These opportunities don’t come around very often so when they do, you really have to soak it in and enjoy it. To have it here in Quesnel is awesome. We have felt the community support really ramp up this year and the arena has been packed on most home games this season. It is going to be a lot of fun to see the city buzzing here for the next bit and hopefully we can cap it all off with a win for Quesnel.”

The team’s President and GM is Tyler Coleman, the head coach is Harley Gilks.

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Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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