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Sockeyes deny Ice Hawks' triple crown bid

Delta settles for silver medal after falling to Richmond in Cyclone Taylor Cup final
Captain Gary Dhaliwal and goalie Jordan Naylor reflect on a tough loss during Sunday's awards ceremony after the Ice Hawks fell 5-1 to the Richmond Sockeyes in the Cyclone Taylor Cup gold medal game.

A rival thirsty for redemption prevented the Delta Ice Hawks from concluding their outstanding season as provincial champions.

The host Richmond Sockeyes skated to a 5-1 victory over the Ice Hawks in Sunday’s gold medal game at the Cyclone Taylor Cup in front of a near capacity crowd at Minoru Arenas. It marked the first all-Pacific Junior Hockey League final in 12 years and the 11th time this season the Fraser River rivals had squared off.

Delta edged Richmond in four league meetings to claim the inaugural Tunnel Cup and then won a semi-final playoff encounter in five games en route to capturing the PJHL championship. That resulted in a 29-day layoff for the Sockeyes, a team loaded with graduating players determined there wouldn’t be a third defeat to conclude their junior careers.

“I would like to say I did a ton but honestly the guys we have in this room are so committed and we worked so hard in the time we had off before this tournament,” smiled Sockeyes captain and Ladner native Tyler Andrews who scored twice in the final and was named Cyclone Taylor Cup MVP. “We didn’t want that feeling again after that loss in Delta. We pushed as hard as we could. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy but it is amazing to see where we are now.

“The famous saying in hockey is 20-year-olds show up when the time comes and there it was.”

The gold medal tilt capped a wild weekend that saw all four teams still in contention heading into Saturday’s final round-robin games.

The Ice Hawks opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over Kootenay League champions Kimberley Dynamiters then rallied for a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory against the Campbell River Storm on a goal by Eric Bourhill. A spot in the gold medal game was clinched when the Storm opened Saturday’s schedule by blasting Kimberley 9-1.

The Sockeyes would join them if they could win the all-PJHL evening encounter. The Ice Hawks elected to rest three of their key players — goalie Jordan Naylor, captain Gary Dhaliwal and defenceman Aiden Hansen-Bukuta.

Richmond jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and went on to post a 5-3 victory, outshooting their rivals 40-16.

Seventeen hours later they were back at it again. Delta’s roster decisions seemed to pay off in the early going when Dhaliwal set-up Daniel Rubin to open the scoring at the 5:59 mark.

However, the Ice Hawks would then encounter a Sockeyes team they hadn’t seen for the previous 10 meetings this season — one that reflected the urgency and will of so many key veterans playing their final game. 

Ian Ross and Andrews beat Naylor five minutes apart to make it 2-1 after one.

After killing off an early penalty, Richmond proceeded to dominate the opening minutes of the second — getting goals from Andrews and Tyler Paterson for a 4-1 lead. It was the biggest hole the young Ice Hawks had been in all season and their strengths are not suited for high-scoring comebacks.

“For us to get that first goal five-on-five, I thought that was a good omen for us,” said head coach Steve Robinson. “I was happy with the start and, again, I have seen so much confidence and swagger out of this team all season. When they got goals one and two back really quick we definitely went a little fragile. For whatever reason, maybe the moment was too big for them.

“I thought once we got out of the first we would come back again but we just couldn’t get it going. No question their motivation was a big factor. I know how hard Tyler and those guys work and how bad they wanted it. But I also had the belief, like we have had all year, that we are talented enough to overcome that with our abilities and depth.”

The remaining drama in the third was the Sockeyes having to kill off a five-minute boarding major to Brett Gelz midway through the period. Goaltender Hardy Hoonjan made a terrific cross-crease save to rob Jordan Deyrmenjian, one of 31 stops to earn player-of-the-game honours.

“We were just chasing the game too much. We can’t use our depth in the same way and we are not as effective as a team,” added Robinson. “It’s disappointing obviously. It feels like a failure of a season when you lose your last game. Once you get a little removed from it, they will be able to hold their heads up high and say it’s been a pretty good season. But they are all competitors like me and you don’t think that way right now.”

With just three graduating players, the Ice Hawks will return a solid core even though some will be moving onto the junior “A” ranks. Among those expected to return is Deyrmenjian for his final season. He won’t soon forget what happened on Sunday.

“It’s a one and done game and it really shows what hockey is all about. It can be a game of inches and it actually exemplifies life really well. Next year I will have some unfinished business to do.”


Among the players expected to jump to B.C. Hockey League next season is Hansen-Bukuta who was the lone Ice Hawk named to the tournament all-star team.