The Quesnel Kangaroos are still the best team in the CIHL, they just aren’t perfect anymore, following a 6-5 shootout loss Saturday evening in Prince Rupert.
To their credit, the ‘Roos picked up their socks and followed up with a shootout win of their own Sunday afternoon, a 4-3 win over the Kitimat Ice Demons.
“There was a definite refocus and commitment to the team concept Sunday,” assistant coach Steve Williams said.
“It was a very entertaining game on a bigger ice surface.
“There were few penalties and that allowed this game to really get going.”
Joel Boyetchko was the shootout hero Sunday afternoon as he slipped a puck under Demons netminder Brandon Highton to give the ‘Roos the win and made the ‘Roos bus ride home more pleasant.
The Kangaroos led 2-1 late in the second period, thanks to second period goals by Harly Gilks and an early second period marker by Rigby Burgart.
But Ian Coleman pulled the Demons even on the powerplay with less than a minute to play in the second frame.
Burgart put the ‘Roos ahead 3-2 with his second of the night early in the third period.
Coleman again responded for the Demons, tying the game up with less than three minutes to play in the game, setting up the shootout.
‘Roos netminder, Ryan Manderson, earned the win, setting aside 37 of 40 shots, including three in the shootout.
“In the second and third periods we rolled four lines more than we had all year,” Williams said.
“Everybody contributed, I think that is why it was a very satisfying win.”
Saturday night’s affair in Prince Rupert against the Rampage, was also a squeaker, but the ‘Roos skated away with just a single point for the shootout loss.
Brett Stava scored for the Rampage in the shootout, while Paul Girodat, Alessio and Nick Tomassetti’s efforts were thwarted by Prince Rupert netminder Keith Movold.
The Kangaroos opened the scoring just past the midway point of the first period with a marker from Alessio Tomassetti.
Jared Anderson pulled the Rampage even with less than three minutes to go, but Joey MacDonald restored the one-goal lead for the ‘Roos less than a minute later.
The ‘Roos jumped on offence early in the second period led 5-2 in the first four minutes of play on goals from Girodat, Shawn Fulton and Burgart.
The Kangaroos then began to fill the penalty box and the Rampage took over the game, adding two goals to pull within one goal, 5-4 after forty minutes of play.
The final frame saw the ‘Roos miss several golden opportunities in the first ten minutes before the Rampage went into overdrive looking for the tying goal.
Anderson finally scored for the Rampage, late in the third, to send the game to a shootout.
The three-point weekend gives the Kangaroos an 8-0-1 record and 17 points to sit atop the CIHL east division standings.
“It was a tough trip,” Williams said of the trip to Prince Rupert and back, with a stop in Kitimat, but added he was pleased with the results, especially considering the team was missing three of their top defenceman.
Stepping up to fill the void on the Kangaroos blueline was Curtis Gassoff.
“It says a lot when a player in the top five in league scoring steps into a defensive role and absolutely commits to the defensive side of it,” Williams said.
Williams also commended the effort of netminder Josh Levesque in Saturday’s game, keeping the game close with quality saves with teammates in the penalty box.
Kudos also went to the line of Burgart, Fulton and Boyetchko.
“They can dominate teams down low,” Williams said.
“They are really starting to generate a lot from it.”
In the end it was the absence of complacency and selfishness that left Williams with a smile after the road trip.
“It was a good reminder of what we need to do as a team and not become individuals wearing a common jersey,” he said.
“These guys displayed pride in what it means to be a Kangaroo.”
The ‘Roos are at home this weekend hosting the Kitimat Ice Demons Saturday evening and the Williams Lake Stampeders Sunday afternoon.