Houston Luckies silenced the Kangaroos 4-3 in their first playoff game last Saturday.
“We had a game plan and we stuck to it,” said Assistant Captain Derek Dinelle.
“We played physical and we did a lot of little things right, just like we wanted to do.”
The game was the first of a playoff set of three games against the Quesnel Kangaroos, with the next two games this Saturday and Sunday in Quesnel.
Tensions were high when players hit the ice last Saturday.
Both teams came out high energy, with the Kangaroos in the upper hand and firing 10 shots to the Luckies three, in the first period.
The scoreboard was empty until Kangaroos found the back of the net with three minutes left on the clock.
The first period ended 1-0 for Kangaroos.
Kangaroos jump started the second period with another goal less then a minute in, but Luckies quickly followed with a goal of their own.
Steven Powers got the puck near centre ice and carried it up the right side.
Facing a two on one, Powers faked a pass to the left, tricking the goalie and firing the puck into the net.
The score was 2-1 for Kangaroos.
Fired up and playing a hard physical game, Luckies took the next goal just four minutes later.
Brad Crump took a pass at the blue line and fought his way up the right side, firing it across to Matt Matus coming into centre.
Matus took the pass and tipped the puck past the goalie and into the bottom right corner of net, evening the score 2-2.
But the tie didn’t last long.
Kangaroos turned up the heat and just three minutes later earned a 3-2 lead.
Luckies goalie Dave Little held the team steady as the period ran down, fighting off 16 shots.
Then, with only four seconds left on the clock, Matus and Crump pulled off another goal.
Taking a pass from Randy Szydlik, Matus took the puck to the bottom right corner where a Kangaroo defenceman slammed him into the boards.
Recovering quickly, Matus found the puck and fired it across to Crump who was coming in centre.
Crump shot it past the goalie and into the net, evening the score 3-3.
The third period had teams head to head in a fairly even game.
The puck bounced back and forth with shots even on both sides and goalies holding their own.
But halfway through the third, Luckies chalked up the final goal.
Randy Szydlik got the puck on the bottom left side and shot it up to Derek Dinelle coming in centre left.
Dinelle tipped it across right to Tyler Poznikoff, who fired it over the goalies head and into the net.
The score was 4-3 for the Luckies.
When the clock hit one minute, Kangaroos pulled their goalie to jack up their offensive effort, but the Luckies held strong.
With less then 20 seconds on the clock, Dinelle got the puck and fired it into the empty Kangaroo net, but referees ruled out the goal because a Luckies player was offside.
Dinelle said it was a disappointing turn of events, but Luckies kept up their defence and held steady, ending the game with a 4-3 win.
“Definitely our star player was [Dave] Little in goal… [he] was our best player on the ice. He had over 30 shots on net and he made some phenomenal saves,” Dinelle said.
Head Coach Shane Brienen agrees.
“Little was suburb in net,” he said, adding that he saved 40 shots to the Kangaroo’s 25, and he was one of the keys that made the difference in the outcome of the game.
“[It was] our forecheck and goaltending,” he said.
Brienen said everyone played really well and it was good to have the full team, as they’ve had to forfeit several games since Christmas because of lack of players.
Looking forward, Brienen says the main thing they need to beat Quesnel is for every player to show up.
“I think we have to play the same type of game… It’s always tough on the road, but we’ve given ourselves a good chance now.
“We’ve just got to win one out of two,” he said.
Asked what he thinks it will take to win, Dinelle said hard effort.
“We’ve got to play harder. They have home ice advantage for the next two games, and we’ve got to really play physical and not give them all the chances that they had tonight.”
Luckies head to Quesnel for the next two playoff games this Saturday and Sunday.
“I expect a victory on Saturday night for us. Then we can come home,” Dinelle said.