If the Delta Ice Hawks and Richmond Sockeyes are headed for another playoff tunnel series, it has become apparent one team will be a prohibitive underdog.
The Ice Hawks have the second best record in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League, but they are going to need to find some answers over the next three weeks if they want to take a serious run at knocking off the defending champions.
The Sockeyes made it five wins in six games against their rivals with a 3-1 decision last week in Ladner. The victory clinched first overall for Richmond as Delta now sits 11 points back with just four games remaining.
The difference in the standings has been the Sockeyes' dominance in the season series, which essentially is a 20-point swing between the two teams.
There was nothing wrong with the Ice Hawks' game plan as their neutral zone trap slowed down Richmond's lethal transition game for the most part. However, they didn't create enough scoring chances themselves and only the top line of Spencer Traher, Cody Smith and Aaron Merrick looked dangerous on a consistent basis.
That has to be the biggest concern of head coach Dave McLellan as his team moves forward into the upcoming playoffs.
Will enough scoring slack be picked up with the loss of graduated snipers Liam Harding and Kye Benjaminsen?
The Hawks took Richmond seven games last season in a memorable conference final series, but that was with two lines - centered by Benjaminsen and Traher - being constant threats. There are plenty of candidates capable of providing additional punch but it wasn't evident in the regular season against the Sockeyes.
"We got to do some work on what we need to do offensively a little bit if we maybe are going to see them in the playoffs," said McLellan, who first must prepare his team for a quarter-final match-up against North Delta.
"We got to score more goals from the point and find a way to give our defencemen more time to shoot the puck. They play two high all the time and are very good at taking away shooting lanes.
"You're not going to get a lot of quality opportunities and it was the same way for them. It was probably between eight to 10 for each team and three of theirs went in."
Life could be easier for the Ice Hawks if they could somehow score a couple of early goals. They did manage a first period tally from Smith in last week's game and it stood up until a late second period power play goal from Jeremy Hamaguchi.
Richmond then made the most of a Delta turnover early in the third period when Rudi Thorsteinson made a nice feed to Hamaguchi.
The visitors then sealed the win on a goal from rookie Kevan Killstoff with 4: 59 remaining, again capitalizing on another miscue.
"It is a team where if you give them a lead or let feel they can win, they will keep coming at you," added McLellan.
"We made one mistake for a brief second and probably it's not a goal nine out of 10 times.
"They are a tough team to play against. Their willingness to go to the net is undeniable. We are little snake bit a think. We seemed to do things really well against them but don't finish."
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