It was a night of breakdowns from start to finish on Tuesday at the Ladner Leisure Centre.
The Delta Ice Hawks scored three late unanswered goals to pull out a 6-4 victory over the Richmond Sockeyes in the final regular season meeting between the Pacific Junior Hockey League rivals.
The result extended the Hawks’ win streak to seven games and gives them a stranglehold on a top two finish in the overall standings. It also meant no 2018/19 winner of the Tunnel Cup series with the teams finishing with identical 1-1-2-0 records.
The game was delayed for about 90 minutes when the Zamboni stalled during ice re-surfacing after the pre-game warm-up. By the time a called-in city maintenance worker had it up and running again, the puck dropped just after 9 p.m.
It was then the Ice Hawks’ turn to misfire as a first period full of miscues resulted in the Sockeyes opening up a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes. The defensive lapses trickled into the second, but some key saves by Jordy Engelson and a couple of goals had the teams tied at 3-3 after two periods.
When Jacob Keremidschieff wired home his team’s third power play tally of the night, it sure looked like the Sockeyes were on their way to a big road victory. Yet the Ice Hawks didn’t quit and got a fortuitous bounce when Daniel Rubin’s cross-crease pass banked in off a defenceman to make it 4-4.
Soon after, Seamus Collins snuck behind the Richmond defence and converted a breakaway to give the hosts their first lead of the game. It was the former Sockeye’s third goal of the season. Alex Suprynowicz then iced the comeback with an empty-netter.
It was a hard loss to swallow for a Sockeyes’ team in the midst of a demanding stretch that sees them playing five times in nine nights. They host Abbotsford on Thursday and travel to Ridge Meadows Friday.
Head coach Brett Reusch not only saw his team surrender a late lead but also provide little push back following Collins’ go-ahead tally.
“They didn’t quit over there and wanted it more. There is not much more to say,” said Reusch. “It was tough to prepare after such a long delay and was kind of a funny game. I thought our forwards hung our ‘D’ out to dry a bit with the (lack of) back-checking and they capitalized on the turnovers.”
The Sockeyes cruised to a 6-2 road win over the Ice Hawks back in October. A furious Steve Robinson watched a similar script for the better part of two periods Tuesday night.
“I’m a pretty mild mannered guy coaching wise, but after the first period, I followed them straight into (the dressing room), slammed the door and tore the paint off the walls,” said the Hawks second-year GM and coach. “I told them ‘you realize the last time they came in here we lost 6-2 with the exact same mistakes and we unravelled with the yelling and blaming everybody? That’s 9-3 in two games.’
“I wasn’t extremely confident after the first because we were so bad. Even in the second, (it continued) with the turnovers and stuff. Our overall defensive play tonight was really bad and our whole pride over our last little stretch was we are not giving up much. For whatever reason we got out of sorts. It’s one of those situations when frustration mounts and everyone is trying hero plays.
“It’s not a game I’m thrilled with at how we played, but it does show a lot of character to come back like that and find a way to pull out.”
The Ice Hawks are in Surrey Thursday night and Port Moody Saturday before hosting White Rock next Tuesday to close out their regular season schedule.