Sports

Sockeyes ready to host Ice Hawks Thursday

Richmond Sockeyes
Richmond Sockeyes' goaltender Kootenay Alder makes a skate save against the North Delta Devils during last Thursday's Pacific International Junior Hockey League game at Minoru Arenas. Sockeyes host Delta Ice Hawks this week.
— image credit: Don Fennell photo

It was a September to remember for the Richmond Sockeyes.

In six games last month, the Sockeyes lost only once—and that was in overtime—to net the best record (5-0-1) in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League.

Ironically, that nicely sets the stage for their next game, and first this month, when they host the Delta Ice Hawks (5-1-0) Thursday at Minoru Arenas. Face-off is 7:30 p.m.

Richmond is coming off a pair of lopsided wins last week, outscoring the North Delta Devils 8-1 Sept. 27 at Minoru and then blanking the Port Moody Panthers 6-0 Saturday in Port Moody. It was North Delta which handed Richmond its only loss, 2-1, on Sept. 15 in North Delta.

“I don’t want to get too caught up in the scores, but what I really liked about (last week’s game against North Delta) was how we reacted,” said Sockeyes’ coach Aaron Wilbur. “It shows every game provides you with an opportunity to learn a bit more.”

Wilbur felt North Delta controlled the pace of play for the first 12 minutes, at times hemming the Sockeyes in their own end. But the Sockeyes—thanks in part to the play of goaltender Kootenay Alder—withstood the pressure without giving up a goal. They then reeled off three goals over the next eight minutes to take a 3-0 lead after a period to all but secure the two points.

“Give our guys credit, we regained our composure and stuck to our game plan, utilizing our speed and playing a puck-possession game,” said Wilbur. “Anybody can work hard, but we also wanted to play better. It was a good learning point for us and a lesson that you can change things by simply playing better. I hope our guys took that to heart.”

Wilbur is looking forward to Thursday’s game against Delta.

“Rivalries are such a big part of sport,” he said. “They’re really what galvanizes the spirit at this level. When I was in Penticton (as an assistant coach of the B.C. Hockey League Vees) it was us and Vernon, and in Castlegar it was us and Nelson. It’s fun for the fans and players.”

Wilbur says the result of this week’s game against Delta, the defending PIJHL playoff champions, isn’t going to decide the season. But, he adds, there’s no question it will have added meaning for the returning Sockeyes.

“We want to approach it like every other game, but respect that for some guys in the room the emotions will be heightened,” he said. “And for the new guys in our group, it’s a chance to support their teammates who were here last season. It’s real healthy in the development of the team any time you get a chance like this.”

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