The message from the Richmond Sockeyes to the North Vancouver Wolf Pack on Thursday night was loud and clear:
Not so fast on those thoughts of repeating as Pacific Junior Hockey League champions and getting back to the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
The Sockeyes thrived in all three facets of the game to produce an impressive 5-0 victory in a showdown of the league’s two remaining undefeated teams.
The Wolf Pack not only came to Minoru Arenas with a 7-0-0 record but had been dominating their opponents to the tune of 30 goals over the last three games, including a 14-2 drubbing of the Ridge Meadows Flames five days earlier. The Sockeyes were more than up to the challenge, getting a terrific 34-save performance from first star Mauricio Soriano and some superb defensive work in front of him, including the return of 18-year-old hometown product Hayden Hurst who was released earlier in the day by Alberni Valley of the B.C. Hockey League.
“All our defence skates well and sees the ice well. It was nice to see how they responded against a championship calibre team,” said Sockeyes head coach Brett Reusch. “It was nice to have Hayden back. Adding that junior ‘A’ experience and a veteran guy. He is a leader in the room and a really nice addition.”
A terrific fast-skating opening 20 minutes saw the Wolf Pack produce the better scoring chances but it was Thomas Von Schoenberg’s power play goal that gave Richmond a 1-0 lead.
It surprisingly remained that way until penalty trouble caught up with North Van in the late stages of the second as Ryleigh Anderson doubled the lead on the Sockeyes’ third consecutive power play.
The hosts then took full control by cashing in on a pair of defensive lapses on goals Michael Araki-Young and Craig Schouten less than two minutes apart.
A tight 1-0 game had suddenly ballooned into a 4-0 advantage after two periods. Still, Soriano had to be sharp in the early minutes of the third. Araki-Young then punctuated the performance on another power play goal, capping off a nifty three-way passing play. Richmond finished the night going 3-for-6 on the power play.
“You can’t take them too lightly. Even going into the third they can score in bunches,” added Reusch. “You can’t get too high and you have to keep your composure. Just keep playing the same way.”
It was the biggest start of Soriano’s junior career after playing for three teams last season, including spot duty behind Jeremy Kelleway. The 19-year-old was more than ready for the challenge.
“He sees we have two other goalies so it’s tough on him. I’m happy with the way they are all playing but Soriano really rose to the occasion,” added Reusch. “He made the big saves when it mattered the most. It easily could been a different game if he let one of those in.”
The Sockeyes return to action Wednesday at Aldergrove and host also host the Langley Trappers on Thursday 7 p.m.