For the first time in their 24-year history, the Delta Ice Hawks are on the outside looking in at the Pacific Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The Hawks’ season came to an end with the 4-1 road loss to the Ridge Meadows Flames last Friday night in Maple Ridge.
Delta was cruising along in early November with a 10-5-1-2 record, but were just 9-14-2-1 the rest of the way, eventually overtaken by the second-year White Rock Whalers for the final spot in the Tom Shaw Conference. A potential cross-over spot to the Harold Brittain Conference ended with the loss to the Flames.
Failing to make the post-season sets the stage for an intriguing off-season with the Ice Hawks expected to be officially awarded the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial junior “B” championships in the coming weeks. They would be guaranteed a spot in the four-team tournament that features the champions from the PJHL, Vancouver Island and Kootenay leagues.
Only two players — captain Mark Ephstein and Mitch Lavoie — are lost to graduation but it’s going to take a number of changes to put this team back in championship contention, especially up front.
While the Hawks ranked second in the league in goals against, they were eighth among the 12 teams in goal production. Goaltender Jordy Engelson ranked top five in save percentage in the entire league but finished with a 9-17-2 record.
Epshtein (24) was the lone player to score 20 goals or more. They also had five rookie forwards with less than 20 points.
Hosting the Cyclone Taylor Cup should enhance their recruiting efforts significantly, especially attracting veteran players.