The Delta Ice Hawks no longer have possession of the Tunnel Cup, but that’s probably the least of their concerns these days.
The Richmond Sockeyes captured the three-year-old regular season rivalry series for the first time with a 7-3 win on Thursday night at Minoru Arenas. Richmond finished with a 2-0-1-1 record in the four head-to-head battles.
The loss was the Hawks’ third in four games to start 2020. They wake up Sunday morning sitting three points out of a Pacific Junior Hockey League playoff spot and time is running out with just eight games remaining.
The Hawks (15-15-3-3) likely can go no worse than 6-2 down the stretch and that’s only going to happen if they can find a level of consistency that has been missing since early November.
Thursday’s game was almost a microcosm of their season with some encouraging signs against a more talented opponent that were overshadowed by missed opportunities, too many mistakes and breakdowns.
A solid first period resulted in a 1-0 lead, only to take a rash of penalties to start the second that led to the tying goal. A giveaway in the offensive zone then sent Ryleigh Anderson on a partial breakaway and the Sockeyes’ leading scorer made it 2-1.
Delta responded with a power play goal from captain Mark Epshtein and defenceman Bradley Araki-Young then beat Ladner’s Braedy Euerby to make it 3-2. The lead lasted for just over a minute when Nicholas Wilson re-directed a shot over Jordy Engelson’s shoulder.
When Cameron Luk failed to convert a breakaway from centre ice in the opening minutes of the third period, it was all downhill from there for the Hawks.
Clayton Schroeder scored what proved to be the game winner midway through the third when he wired a shot past Engelson who had made a terrific save moments earlier but got no help on the rebound. It was a sequence that summed up a frustrating season for the 19-year-old who fell to 5-14-2-0 despite having one of the league’s best save percentages at .920. He faced 46 shots on the night.
The Hawks then failed to convert on two straight power play chances to tie the game.
The Sockeyes put an exclamation mark on the win with three goals in the final two minutes against a clearly deflated opponent.