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Richmond Sockeyes play Whalers in first playoff series

The Richmond hockey team won their first three games of the series.

As tentative as they might have been to get game one underway, the Richmond Sockeyes never took a day off as they patiently waited for the winner of the first round.

They would be facing their rival White Rock Whalers in a best of seven series in hopes of getting redemption from the match-up that saw them eliminated last season after being outscored 20-10 in a five-game series by the same Whalers.

As with most leagues, playoff dates are dependent on available ice time, so this series started in White Rock.

One might think the Whalers would have the advantage given they were playing on home ice and coming off a recent win.

Say what you will, but that wasn’t the case given the explosive power the Sockeyes have displayed all season in addition to their current winning streak which would continue in game one.

Overall, the series should be a “goal-tending” battle with the Whalers starting Mark Paton while Richmond would go with Thomas Popa in a game that saw Richmond outshoot the Whalers by a 42-15 margin.

The game started with both teams being tentative until the Sockeyes’ Nicholas Noren opened the scoring at 19:32 of the first period giving the team motivation heading into the second.

They continued to play aggressively as the Whalers ran into penalty trouble, setting up the Sockeyes for three goals in the second period before heading to the dressing room with a 4-0 lead.

The third period saw more aggressive undisciplined play by the Whalers that allowed the Sockeyes to add three more goals with each coming while on the power play in a penalty-filled period.

Popa grabbed another shutout win giving the Sockeyes a 1-0 series lead after their impressive 7-0 win.

Game two recognizes hockey moms

Prior to playing game two, the Sockeyes hosted their Annual “Mother’s Night” to show both respect and recognize the support they have given their sons in their hockey career.

Game two in the series was less than 24 hours later, on home ice, in a game that saw the Whalers get the early lead at 1:59 into it with the Sockeyes losing Mathew Stewart for a major penalty, which gave several chances to the visiting team.

The loss was felt through the roster, but the team fought hard grabbing three in the first with Justin McKnight getting one on the power play followed by a pair of even strength goals taking a 3-1 lead to the room after 20 minutes.

We could sense the aggressive play developing from the press box forcing the referees to take charge that set up another power-play goal from Justin Grant at 11:17 of the middle period giving the Sockeyes a 4-1 lead.

The longer any series goes, the more aggressive it gets and this was the case in the third period that saw the Sockeyes get another power-play goal at 13:10 with Jonathan Soares giving them a 5-1 lead. Zach Zapanta then added the finishing touch with his first of the playoffs at 19:01 for a dominating 2-0 series lead.

Heading back to the Centennial Arena for the Whalers proved successful for only the first two goals, with Justin Osborne giving them the early lead to the delight of the crowd.

But this would be short-lived. The Sockeyes got on the board with Rajun Parmar getting his first of three at 7:47 followed by markers from Teo Lin, Gavin Bains and Nicholas Noren finishing the first with a 4-2 lead.

The second period saw the Whalers’ Wesley Rowley pull within one, followed by Parmar’s second at 12:01 making it 5-3. Then Callum Lind made it a 6-3 game.

The second period finished with Whalers’ Ethan McEneany pulling his squad within two at 18:38, sending the teams to the dressing room with the Sockeyes sticking to the “game plan” set in place prior to the playoffs.

The third was more wide open than the first that saw Parmar get his third of the game making it a 7-4 contest that saw Noah Gibbons double up the score at 5:17.

The Whalers added a pair with both on the power play, which would be all they could manage with Justin McKnight finishing the scoring sending the Whalers back to the drawing board pondering what and how to solve the mystery of the Sockeyes.

The win gave the Sockeyes a commanding 3-0 series lead as they head home to play a pivotal game four.

- Steve Erickson handles media relations for the Richmond Sockeyes

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