Sports

With playoffs fast approaching, Sockeyes wary of complacency

With the playoffs fast approaching, if there's one thing the Richmond Sockeyes want to guard against it's complacency.

"I feel like we're in a pretty good spot overall, but we've had a few wake-up calls lately," said coach Aaron Wilbur. "If we can learn from them it can be a good thing."

The Sockeyes lead the Tom Shaw Conference with a 31-8-1 record, and have a seven-point cushion on the Harold Brittain Conference-leading Abbotsford Pilots (27-10-2) for their overall lead in the Pacific Junior Hockey League going into their meeting with the Pilots this Friday in the Fraser Valley city. And while the Sockeyes have posted some impressive victories of late, including a 6-0 whitewash of the Mission City Outlaws on Jan. 26 and a 3-1 decision over the Delta Ice Hawks on Jan. 31, they also blew a 2-0 lead against the North Vancouver Wolf Pack last Saturday and subsequently lost the game 4-3.

"The intensity throughout the league has really picked up the last few weeks and a couple of teams have really improved over the second half," said Wilbur. "It's not going to be easy for anybody (to get wins)."

On the loss to North Vancouver, Wilbur said the result magnifies the importance not to look past any game.

"I think it was probably good to lose that game because it serves as a wakeup, rather than us squeaking out a win, feeling too comfortable, and making the same mistakes again," he said.

Wilbur is particularly proud that the Sockeyes have not lost two games in a row this season, but expects that feat to be put to the test over the next week. Beginning Friday in Abbotsford, the team will be on the ice each of the next six days. They'll also have a quick turnaround, hosting the Aldergrove Kodiaks in a special Richmond Celebrates Hockey Day matinee Saturday at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Faceoff is 12:30 p.m. They'll then practice Sunday and Monday before facing the Ice Hawks at the Ladner Leisure Centre Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and are then home to host the Ridge Meadows Flames Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Minoru Arenas.

"The key at any level when you get into these situations (which mirrors the playoff schedule) is to be well organized," Wilbur said. "That starts with the coaching staff and demands that you eliminate any distractions. The process has to be seamless and it's important for the players to focus on what's right in front of them and not the next day or game. You have to take a mindset that you're not saving anything."

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