It was a battle to the end as the Nechako North Stars beat Williams Lake Stampeders 4-3 in overtime during the final game of Central Interior Hockey League playoffs Sunday Feb. 19.
Shy of two minutes into overtime, North Stars player Mike Simoes scored the winning goal, assisted by Landon Kitchen, clinching the best-of-three for the team.
North Stars coach Marty Floris said he was thrilled for his team.
“We are short staffed. Michael who scored that goal at the end has a banged up knee so he is kind of on one leg. It was just fitting that he would get that one. It was awesome.”
Floris said the playoffs are tough, given the geography of playing hockey in the north.
“Everyone knows that going in. You cannot play a mid-week game.”
The team, made up of players from Fort St. James and Vanderhoof, was formed last year.
“With this being our second year, this win is a big morale boost for us,” Floris said. “Sometimes it’s tough with the senior line-up to get guys committed to come in because they are working.”
Leading up to the weekend in Williams Lake, the North Stars had won on home ice 3-1 against the Stampeders.
On Saturday, Feb. 18, the North Stars lost 6-2.
They were winning 2-1 at the end of the first period Saturday night, with goals scored by Hunter Floris, Lane Goodwin assist and Nick Silver, assists from Ben Scott and Dallas Goodwin.
Markus Myatovic netted the Stamps first period goal, assisted by Ryan Yaworski.
In the second period, the Stamps returned with the intent to score.
Within the first minute, Darcy Flaherty scored, Nic Flinton assist.
A few minutes later Nic Flinton scored, Ethan Smid and Lane Wycotte assist.
Next up, Flinton returned with his second goal of the game, assisted by Danny Merth
Nick Fidanza scored the Stamps’ fifth on an empty net in the third period, assisted by Mark Bouchard.
Quickly the North Stars goalie returned in the net, but when there were only nine seconds left in the game, Brad Crump scored the sixth and final goal for the Stamps, assisted by Dayton Long.
In the Sunday game, Kaleb Boyle scored the first period goal for the Stamps, Brendan Pigeon the second period goal, Nick Fedanza and Marcus Myatovic assist and Ethan Smid scored the third period goal, Brad Crump assist.
North Stars Jett Saharchuk scored the first period goal, Landon Kitchen assist, Saharchuk also scored the second period goal, Kitchen and Hunter Floris assist, and Matty Saharhcuk scored the third period goal, Kitchen assist.
The North Stars will now compete against the Quesnel Kangaroos in Fort St. James as the second round of playoffs get underway, Friday, Feb. 24.
“It goes like that sometimes,” said Stamps coach Cody Tent after the game. “All three games in this playoff series were good, in my opinion.”
Both teams headed into Sunday’s game with a win each.
Analyzing the final game, Tent said the North Stars are working as hard as they possibly can.
“That’s the thing about hockey. It doesn’t matter how much talent you bring to the rink, when you are running into a buzz saw of somebody who just does not have any quit you are going to end up with things not going your way and that is kind of what happened to us in this first round here.”
Tent said all in all the team can hang its hat on a really good season of hockey.
“We’ve got a lot of young talent coming through. I think the Stampeders will be a really good hockey club for years to come. We will be able to regroup and move forward from here.”
The Stamps are not able to play where they want to next weekend, but unfortunately that is the way hockey is and that is why there are playoffs, Tent said.
“Like I said, there’s a lot of talent in our dressing room. We’ve got a lot of faith for years to come. Moving on, our leaders are going to do the right thing and make us a competitive hockey team.”