Sports

Sockeyes top standings, but consistency still a work in progress

Richmond Sockeyes
Richmond Sockeyes' coach Aaron Wilbur says his team must consistently play smart as well as work hard to contend for championship honours.
— image credit: Don Fennell photo

In the standings, and perhaps on paper too, the Richmond Sockeyes are ahead of the Aldergrove Kodiaks. But for one game last week at least the latter proved to be better where it counts most: on the scoreboard.

“Everyone talks about work ethic, but when two teams play equally hard it comes down who plays better—and they simply played better than we did,” Richmond coach Aaron Wilbur said of the Kodiaks’ 5-3 Pacific Junior Hockey League victory over the Sockeyes last Wednesday in Aldergrove.

“It was a telling game and good walk-up call for our group. Full credit to Aldergrove. They played as structured and disciplined of a game, and executed a game plan as well over 60 minutes, as any team I’ve seen this season. It’s not easy to do and it speaks to Ron (Johnson) as a coach, their commitment level and their buy-in to the team.”

The Sockeyes—scheduled to host the league-leading Abbotsford Pilots this Thursday (Dec. 20) at 7:30 p.m. at Minoru Arenas—actually got the early advantage every team—especially as visitors—craves when Rudi Thorsteinson and Jeremy Hamaguchi combined to set up Adam Nishi for the game’s opening goal at 6:40 of the first period. But the Kodiaks never panicked and less than 90 seconds later tied the game before taking their lead two minutes after that. Richmond scored 47 seconds into the middle frame to tie the game, with Dean Allison’s goal the only one of the second period, and regained the lead 40 seconds into third on Danton Heinen’s powerplay tally. But, again, the Kodiaks stuck to the plan and at 4:02 tied the game at 3-3 and at 9:10 had the lead which they cemented with an empty-netter with two seconds to play.

“I though their attention to details was superb,” Wilbur said of the Kodiaks.

“They were stronger on the sticks and as a result a lot of our scoring chances were negated, and they were far better on the face-off (winning 60 per cent of the draws). When you start with possession of the puck it makes a big difference, a fact that’s lost on a lot of guys at our level.”

The game, added Wilbur, provided the Sockeyes with another of those valuable lessons.

“We know we’ve got a talented group and they work hard, but ultimately if you want to win a championship you’ve got to go and play better—smarter—than the other team,” he said.

Richmond built up a 2-0 lead and then held on to defeat a stubborn Port Moody Panthers (last in the league with 11 points, 30 back of the Tom Shaw Conference-leading Sockeyes) 3-2 last Thursday. Wilbur heaped most of the credit on Panther goaltender Angus Redmond, who made 42 saves, but said his teammates also played with great resolve.

“They’ve pretty much gone with a young team and they looked like they were excited about the ice time they were getting,” said Wilbur. “They worked their butts off.”

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