Sports

Allison epitomizes Sockeyes

assists to help lead the Richmond Sockeyes past the North Vancouver Wolf Pack last week. Sockeyes host Port Moody Panthers Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Minoru Arenas. - Don Fennell photo
assists to help lead the Richmond Sockeyes past the North Vancouver Wolf Pack last week. Sockeyes host Port Moody Panthers Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Minoru Arenas.
— image credit: Don Fennell photo

Though they’re only a point shy of the outright lead in the Pacific Junior Hockey League, and have the fewest losses—five—of any team, the Richmond Sockeyes remain an interesting dichotomy.

The talent is there, but it’s been primarily hard work that has the Sockeyes sitting atop the Tom Shaw Conference going into Thursday’s home game versus the Port Moody Panthers (7:30 p.m. face-off at Minoru Arenas). And no player better exemplifies those qualities than Dean Allison, who leads the team in scoring (fourth in the league) with 36 points through 25 games.

“His shot has really improved, but he’s not tried to be anything he’s not,” said Sockeyes’ head coach Aaron Wilbur. “He’s simply bought into how we want to play and has consistently reflected our philosophy, which is to let the process unfold and trust if you play the right way for 60 minutes eventually you’ll get your chances. He’s an honest, straight-up player that plays the same in all three zones. You never get the impression that he’s concerned with scoring.”

Allison is the kind of player you win with in the playoffs, which is really what Wilbur is concerned with. Sure, he wants the Sockeyes to succeed in the regular season too, but it’s developing good habits that carry over in the post-season that matters most. And at the top of that list is consistency, something the Sockeyes still struggle with.

“A big focus for us as we continue through the second half of the season will be playing without the puck,” said Wilbur. “Defence is the toughest thing to teach and buy into, but I think we’re getting better.”

Already, it appears the blue liners are quicker getting to loose pucks and then moving them up to the forwards on the fly. The defence also did well to limit the number of quality shots on goaltender William Latimer in last week’s 6-1 victory over the North Vancouver Wolf Pack.

“The only goal we gave up was a result of one bad breakdown,” said Wilbur.

The presence of two newcomers also sparked the Sockeyes’ win over the Wolf Pack. And forward Jake Roder and defenceman Trevor Stack are being counted on to continue to play key roles in the team’s march ahead. Roder, 20, had been attending the University of Victoria, but decided he wanted to complete his junior hockey eligibility. The Sockeyes’ leading scorer two seasons ago (53 points in 46 games), he scored twice in his debut this season.

But while Roder’s scoring ability is welcomed, it’s his leadership qualities that Wilbur seems to appreciate most. And the fact he fits so well on a line with two other key players—Jeremy Hamaguchi and Rudi Thorsteinson.

“They looked like a couple of rink rats playing alongside Jake,” said Wilbur.

Captain Sam Chichak, second in Sockeyes’ scoring with 32 points through 25 games, padded his individual stats against the Wolf Pack with two goals and two assists. Like Allison, he continues to play well both offensively and defensively.

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