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No trades for Richmond Sockeyes, team remains focused on playoff push

Two more wins under the belt for hometown hockey players who sit on top of conference

To the relief of some Richmond Sockeyes players, the trading deadline has come and gone without any players moving out to other clubs.

This happens each season and can be a worry for some considering that all teams are looking at making improvements to their teams as they focus on a long playoff run.

This year, the Sockeyes saw 11 changes to the rosters for various clubs with several changes that simply were unpredictable to many in the hockey world but all necessary to improve their run heading to the finals.

This season, the Sockeyes stayed with their “core roster” of players who have dedicated their season to playing for the Sockeyes' faithful fans who continue to support the local team.

Sockeyes win 5-3 over Panthers in first game of 2024

Returning after the Christmas break, the Sockeyes played host to the Port Moody Panthers who acquired the playing rights to Oleksandr Gutsu from the Delta Ice Hawks in exchange for the playing rights to Dawson Toledo.

The Panthers currently sit sixth in the Tom Shaw Conference while the Sockeyes continue to hold the first overall position in both the PJHL as well as the top spot in the Province Junior A Tier 2.

This game saw the Sockeyes start newly acquired Noah Stenvig between the pipes who faced 16 shots, turning aside all but three while the Panthers started Lucas Poratto who stopped 33 of the 38 he faced.

St. George’s Zach Zapanta opened the scoring in the first period at 10:30 with Gavin Sangara and Gavin Bains setting the play up from the back end.

The second period saw Sockeyes forward Bryce Strandt “kick start” the second scoring at 28 seconds in, only to have the Panthers reply with a pair of their own with Daegun Chong and Tristan Lindsay evening the game at two.

Richmond’s explosive power play unit “clicked” with Daniel Zhou giving them a 3-2 lead at 5:09 after being set up by Michael McIntyre holding the lead after 40 minutes.

The Panthers pressed early and saw Carter Dickson take a stretch pass from Ty Balchen and Sahilpreet Deol pulling the Panthers even at 1:21 of the third period.

As much as the Sockeyes pressed, they were denied by the stellar play of Lucas Poratto.

But then the Sockeyes' Justin Grant was able to regain the lead at 11:20, followed up by a fifth goal from Alex Keilmann at 16:57 to pull out the win in a tightly contested contest.

The three stars in this contest saw Justin Grant (1G/0A) named first star while Panthers' Daegun Chong (1G/0A) named second and Daniel Zhou (1G//0A) named third.

Tight win over White Rock Whalers

This game was followed up by a visit by the White Rock Whalers two nights later in a game that featured fast-paced action with neither team letting up until the final buzzer.

Both clubs went with their starters with the Whalers starting Mark Paton while the Sockeyes started their number one Thomas Popa in a battle that featured several key saves at both ends.

Sockeyes’ Bryce Strandt opened the scoring at 7:59 giving them the early lead that they maintained until 19:20 when Nicholas Noren gave them a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play and before heading to the dressing room.

The second period saw both teams trade a pair with Derek Leroux getting the Whalers on the board 18 seconds in, only to relinquish it, allowing the Sockeyes to get their third goal on the power play at 5:28.

The third period saw more pressure on the Sockeyes as they were looking at keeping their winning streak alive but allowed Maxwell Kovach to pull the Whalers within one making it a 3-2 contest at 10:23.

The Sockeyes’ Popa was forced to make some spectacular stops in the later stages of the third period, kicking out three consecutive shots from various angles. The kept the Sockeyes in the game ending with an impressive 3-2 win.

The winning streak continues as the Sokeyes have three games this coming week when the Whalers visit the “Fish Tank” for a return match Thursday, Jan. 18, followed by a tilt with Port Coquitlam the following night.

On Saturday, the Sockeyes play their annual alumni game with the face-off set for 5:30 p.m.

- Steve Erickson handles media relations for the Richmond Sockeyes

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