The Quesnel Kangaroos are playing for the Central Interior Hockey League championship.
The Roos finished the regular season in first place overall, for the CIHL, but only by a smidge. Their 12 wins, three losses, and one overtime loss got them 25 points. That was one more than their rival Williams Lake Stampeders in the Eastern Division and also one point better than the Prince Rupert Rampage in the Western Division.
It guaranteed them a bye in the first round, and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Stampeders got upset in the first playoff round by the Nechako Northstars, so rather than a head to head battle between the two Cariboo counterparts, the Kangaroos got pitted against the six wins - 10 losses team from Vanderhoof in the second round.
The best-of-three series started in Vanderhoof for Game 1 on Friday night (Feb. 24), then switched back to Quesnel for Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 3.
The third game was not necessary. The dominant Kangaroos took a 1-0 series lead on the road, winning 5-2 in Vanderhoof. The next night it was another big win for the maroon and yellow, knocking off the Northstars in dramatic fashion.
Quesnel jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals by Nick Tomassetti and Eric Galbraith before they’d reached the 9-minute mark of the first, but the Northstars did cut that lead with one of their own before the period ended. The Roos took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, but Nechako tied it up only a minute into the 2nd period. But the Kangaroos kept kicking and got their third goal from Bryan Allbee, assisted by Justin Fulton and Alessio Tomassetti. Then, with about 12 minutes left in the game, Tomassetti scored one of his own, assisted by Justin Fulton and Jordan Low, to salt it away.
“It was a hard-fought series by both teams,” said Tomassetti. “No one ever quit. Our team works hard every shift and we use our skill to get the job done. The CIHL championship is going to be a fun series. This is what we set our sights on all year, is to be in this situation. Now that we are here, we’ve got to put our boots on and dial everything in. These are going to be the hardest games all year, so everyone has got to be ready to go.”
After a prolongued series in the West, it was finally determined over the weekend who was going to face the Roos for the league banner.
First, Prince Rupert got upset. It was the Terrace River Kings against the Hazelton Wolverines for the western title, and their three-game series need all nine buzzers plus more. Game three went to double overtime before Terrace finally ended it.
Game 1 in the CIHL finals will go March 4 in Terrace, then Game 2 will be at West Fraser Centre in Quesnel on March 11, with March 12 reserved for Game 3 if necessary.