Wednesday night saw the Aldergrove Kodiaks and Richmond Sockeyes win their divisional championships, setting the stage for the Pacific Junior Hockey League Championships finals between the two teams.
The finals are set to start next week with the first Kodiaks home game on Wednesday, March 19, 7:15 p.m. at Aldergrove Arena. The teams go to Richmond for Game 2 the following night, March 20, 7 p.m. at Minoru Arenas.
It promises to be a tight race between two very competitive teams and could easily go the full seven games. Both teams finished their regular season at the top of their divisions, just one point apart, with the Kodiaks at 72 points in the Harold Brittain conference and the Sockeyes at 73 points in the Tom Shaw side.
With two victories — 4-3 at Richmond on Oct. 17 and 5-4 at home Jan. 29 — Aldergrove won the season series between the teams. Richmond won 2-1 at home Jan. 2 and the teams tied 4-4 in Aldergrove on Oct. 30.
“We’re going to have to real good (to defeat Aldergrove),” said Richmond coach Judd Lambert. “They’re a real strong team, with probably the most talent in the league. Look at the league’s leading scorers. They’ve got a lot of them, and an experienced 20-year-old goalie (Jordan Liem) who’s also very good and defencemen able to chip in on the scoring as well.”
For his part, Kodiaks head coach Brad Rihela says he’s been long been looking forward to this stage of the season and a battle against a team he respects for its tough but clean brand of hockey.
Richmond swept the North Vancouver Wolf Pack on March 12 with a come-from-behind 8-6 victory in game four. The Wolf Pack were up 6-3 at the start of the third period but the Sockeyes netted five unanswered goals in period three for the win.
Aldergrove completed its series round against Abbotsford Pilots, March 12 at Aldergrove Arena, with a 7-3 score in game five.
Aldergrove had won the first two games at home 7-2 and 2-0, but the Pilots finally broke through with a 3-2 overtime victory in game three on March 7 at MSA Arena. The Kodiaks took a 3-1 series lead with a 3-2 game four victory before closing things out in game five.
On March 12 the Kodiaks scored four power play goals in the second half of the first period before the Pilots notched the period’s final goal, for a 4-1 lead at the start of the second.
The Pilots scored the first goal of the second period but the Kodiaks responded with three more to go up 7-2 at the start of the third.
The Pilots scored the only third period goal but it wasn’t enough to carry the game and the Kodiaks won 7-3.
Top scorers for the Kodiaks were Spencer McHaffie, who got two goals and an assist, as well as the game’s first star, and Elvis Jansons, who got a pair of goals and the game’s second star. Other Kodiaks scorers were Joshua Cronin, Stephen Ryan and Jonathan Philley.
Jordan Liem stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced.
He leads all goalies this post-season with a 1.94 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
The Kodiaks outshot the Pilots 38-25 and successfully killed all five of the Pilots’ power plays.