The Delta Ice Hawks came ever-so-close to sweeping their way to the Pacific Junior Hockey League finals.
Cole Svendson’s hat trick goal at the 8:24 mark of overtime gave the White Rock Whalers a 5-4 win over the Ice Hawks in game four on Monday night at Centennial Arena. The result came after Delta produced three consecutive 4-1 victories to take a commanding lead in the best-of-seven series.
The teams are back in action Thursday night (7:30 p.m.) at the Ladner Leisure Centre. If necessary game six is slated for South Surrey Arena on Saturday (5 p.m.) and game seven would take place at North Delta’s Sungod Arena on Tuesday (March 21).
Svendson converted a rebound to cap a huge evening for the Whalers’ top line that has been carrying the team offensively throughout the playoffs. The trio of Svendson, Zach Sherwin and Chris Fortens combined for 11 points and, amazingly, are responsible for 23 of White Rock’s 28 goals in the post-season, including all eight in this series.
Up until Monday, the Ice Hawks were doing an effective job against the dynamic trio, but drifted away from their game plan despite the heroics of goaltender Merik Erickson who made 41 saves.
Brayden Sinclair tied the game at 3-3 with 6:23 remaining, only to see Sherwin re-store the White Rock lead 12 seconds later on a 2-on-1 break. Alex Lucchesi’s third of the playoffs with 3:09 left pulled the visitors even again to force overtime.
The teams were playing their third game in as many nights. That didn’t stop White Rock GM and head coach Jason Rogers from leaning heavily on his top line, including playing every other shift in overtime.
“I feel bad for Merik because he made like three, five-star alarm saves that kept us alive and then we have a brain cramp (on the overtime winner) and let the rebound just sit there,” said Ice Hawks GM and head coach Steve Robinson who watched his team’s playoff win streak end at six games.
“We haven’t had a game like this since game one (of the Grandview series) where we are going back-and-forth trading chances. In the regular season we were a high octane team and that’s always in the holster where they just want to go for it like that. Maybe they needed (one of these losses) to remember there is a reason the script is playing ‘defence wins championships’ where we need to be solid in the back end.”
“We will have a light practice on Wednesday and be ready to go in our barn (with goalie Zach Shaughnessy). I like our chances.”
The Hawks are dealing with a couple of key injuries.
Connor Merriman, who had 35 goals in the regular season, left Sunday’s 4-1 game three win with an upper body injury. The versatile Henry Smith, who has been terrific this series, suffered a skate laceration near his hand in the first period Monday and was taken to nearby Peace Arch Hospital.