The Delta Ice Hawks will take a 1-0 series lead into a demanding three-game stretch starting Saturday night that will go long way to determining the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s Tom Shaw Conference final.
Delta opened with a 4-1 win on Tuesday night at the Ladner Leisure Centre in a best-of-seven affair that features the league’s most dynamic line against the highest scoring team.
The Whalers’ trio of graduating 20-year-olds Zach Sherwin, Chris Fortems and Cole Svendson combined for 15 of their team’s 20 goals in a five-game opening series win over the Richmond Sockeyes. Fortems and Sherwin, a Ladner native, also finished one-two in PJHL regular season scoring. Meanwhile, the Ice Hawks were the league’s highest scoring team with nine players averaging more than a point per game.
That depth was showcased in the opener with Delta getting a pair of goals from standout blueliners Carson Hemmenay and Yuji Akimoto, along with two more from their checking line.
Sherwin scored his league-leading sixth of the playoffs early in the second to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Ice Hawks then took over the final 10 minutes of the period, capped by Akimoto’s shorthanded effort. Henry Smith added an assist to his game’s opening goal when he set up Austin Kofler late in the third. The versatile Smith was on the blueline as call-up for Cowichan Valley of the B.C. Hockey League on the weekend.
“I thought tonight was another game where we got good contribution across our line-up,” said Delta GM and head coach Steve Robinson. “I feel like that's when we're playing our best when we can play everybody and we saw that with our fourth line putting up two goals tonight. We made them play so many minutes in their own zone and heavy.”
Robinson expects to see the Whalers at their best in game two at Centennial Arena where his team has not had a lot of success of late, including a 7-0 regular season drubbing last month and a season-ending game six loss a year ago at the same stage of the playoffs.
“They've got a lot of older guys. Their going to very committed and desperate and hungry. They have special players in Fortems, Zach and other guys. They can make plays and I have seen them have big games. I respect the hell out of them,” added Robinson. “We just have to go in there and dial up a perfect game and try and put them on the ropes.”
Game three in the series goes Sunday in Ladner (7:45 p.m.). The teams then make it three games in as many nights when they head back to Centennial for game four on Monday (7 p.m.).