In their final tournament of the season in Kamloops, the midget tier two Williams Lake Timberwolves made their second semifinal appearance of the season.
Donning flashy new third jerseys, generously subsidized by Tom Wong and Caribou Ski Source for Sports, the Wolves hammered a Kamloops team that had beaten them 5-3 just seven days before.
Conceding the first goal the Wolves battled back with a backdoor pass from Zach Herrick converted by Josh Novakowski on the power play to even the score.
Ezra Oosting scored, and Jacob Chamberlin banged home two rebounds to give the Wolves a 4-1 lead after two periods of hockey.
The third was all Williams Lake with Justin Hansen potting a goal while killing off a five-on-three penalty to close out the scoring and to give Williams Lake a convincing 7-1 triumph.
The second game against Port Coquitlam, another team Williams Lake had fallen to earlier in the season, seemed to be heading to another blowout result with the Wolves jumping out to a 3-0 lead on the back of goals by Owen Powers, Oosting and Justin Bond. Williams Lake grew complacent, however, allowing PoCo to tie the score moments after the start of the third.
Oosting restored the lead and Bond added insurance, but PoCo drew within a goal with three minutes to go. A long-shot rush from Powers, also known as ‘OP Nation,’ reestablished the two-goal cushion to give the Wolves a 6-4 win.
Facing Campbell River next, Williams Lake did something they rarely do: struggle to score goals. The game was a low-scoring affair, with a second-period Campbell River goal opening the scoring. In the third, however, Bond was hauled down but still managed to sneak his shot five-hole, evening the score.
Moments later, Campbell River restored their lead and withstood an onslaught from Williams Lake, eking out a 2-1 result.
A match with a familiar Abbotsford squad restored Williams Lake to their goal-scoring ways. Darien Grace opened with a breakaway goal, and Bond and Chamberlin also added to the tally. Abbotsford drew within two, but a precision snipe by Wendell Williams that caused the opposition goaltenders’ water bottle to fly off the net into the corner of the rink dispelled all hope of a comeback.
Cory Sterritt added to the score and Grace closed out the scoring. The 6-1 win came with a significant price, as Oosting left the game midway through the final frame with a dislocated kneecap.
The semifinal date with St. Albert started well, with the Wolves falling behind early and Benn Taylor scoring on the rush to even the score.
The wheels began to fall off, however, as the Alberta squad capitalized on two defensive zone errors in the last minute of the first period.
Williams Lake battled hard, but the damage had been done. As the Wolves grew more and more desperate, the Raiders patient play allowed them to fend off Williams Lake’s attack, as well as capitalize when the opportunity presented itself.
“We had success, not just in this game, but in this tournament, when we stuck to our systems,” Herrick said. “When we forechecked and backchecked hard we were the better team and created opportunities for ourselves.
“Unfortunately, when you play teams like St. Albert, if you take a shift off, they will make you pay and that is exactly what happened.”
St. Albert advanced with a 7-1 win and Williams Lake returned home empty handed.
The Wolves tournament play may be over, but their season is far from done. A home-and-away series with 100 Mile House is slated for this coming weekend with a matinee matchup at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
A break follows before a pair of games with both the tier two and tier three Prince George Cougars. The tier two games on Feb. 1 will decide who gets the all-important home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
Darien Grace is a team member with the Williams Lake Midget Timberwolves.