Plenty of parity means there will be no time to take the foot off the gas pedal for the Delta Ice Hawks as they begin the stretch drive of the Pacific Junior Hockey League regular season.
The Hawks (21-8-1-1) opened the new year by splitting a pair of games at the PJHL Winter Classic in Richmond, then doubling the expansion Chilliwack Jets on Tuesday at the Ladner Leisure Centre. With 13 games remaining, the Ice Hawks sit 10 points back of the Tom Shaw Conference leading North Vancouver Wolf Pack (26-7-1-1) with four games in hand. However, they are also just three clear of the third-place White Rock Whalers (20-11-1-0) while the fourth-place Richmond Sockeyes (19-10-1-0) are five back with a game in hand.
Those teams make their way to Ladner over the next three weeks, starting with the Whalers in town next Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. The Sockeyes visit Ladner on Jan. 18 and the Wolf Pack are here Jan. 25.
Delta gained some ground on the Wolf Pack with a 6-3 win on New Year’s Day at the Winter Classic.
Rookie Carson Merriman led the way with a goal and three assists as the Hawks took control with three unanswered goals in the second period to break a 2-2 tie. Dalton MacGillivray, Alec Scouras, Ben Kjernisted and Yuji Akimoto also scored. Braedy Euerby was solid in goal with 34 saves.
The momentum from the big win proved to be short-lived as the Hawks were haunted by poor special teams play in a 7-4 loss to the Aldergrove Kodiaks the following day at Minoru Arenas.
Dominic Passalacqua-Main gave Delta a 1-0 first period lead before the Kodiaks scored twice to close out the frame, then added three more in the second to open up a 5-1 lead. The outburst included a pair of shorthanded goals as the Ice Hawks failed to convert on seven power play opportunities.
The team regrouped to defeat Chilliwack two nights later thanks to goals from six different players and a 27-save performance from Euerby.
Kyle Robinson, J.J. Milne, Kyle Kalamaras, Carson Hemenway, Merriman and MacGillivray looked after the scoring as the hosts broke the game open with three power play goals over a three-minute span in the second period. Scouras had four assists.