Second-place showdown Thursday

By Don Fennell

Published 1:42 PST, Tue November 7, 2017

Two teams separated by a meager point will face off in a key Pacific Junior Hockey League mid-season game Thursday at Minoru Arenas.

Coming off a 6-4 victory over the Panthers Saturday in Port Moody, and winners of four of their last six, the Richmond Sockeyes (10-5-1-1) can, with a win, pass the North Vancouver Wolf Pack and move into second place in the Tom Shaw Conference standings. Game time is 7 p.m.

The Pack (10-4-0-3) lost their most recent game 5-2 Saturday to the white-hot Delta Ice Hawks (losers of just a single game in 17) and have a 3-3 record in their last six outings.

Brett Gelz powered the Sockeyes to a 6-5 victory over North Vancouver in the last meeting between the clubs, Oct. 14 on the North Shore. His overtime winner completed a hat trick as Richmond rallied from a 4-1 first-period deficit.

Richmond head coach Steve Robinson is among those looking forward to this week’s engagement.

“They’ll be a motivated, hungry team,” Robinson says of the Pack. “Aside from the fact it’s between two teams jockeying for second place in the standings, we’ve given them two of what I call hurting losses. We won both previous games against them 6-5, after they had sizeable leads in both. Those ones really sting, so you know we’ll see a good, hard effort from them. But I welcome it. We need to see how we respond to that kind of adversity.”

Robinson is also anxious to see how the Sockeyes fare against the Ice Hawks next Tuesday (Nov. 14) in Delta.

Going 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games, the Sockeyes have been trending well, though still not firing on all cylinders as Robinson would like to see. He sees the game against Delta as not only a chance to upset the league-leaders, but to see how much progress his club has made in the last several weeks.

Nicolas Bizzutto’s goal and two assists led Richmond past Port Moody. Bizzutto is now third in team scoring with 12 goals and 18 points. Jacob Keremidschief scored back-to-back goals in the second period, and now has six points in as many games, while defenceman Matt Brown stepped up with three helpers. Captain Tyler Andrews was held to an assist but still leads the club with 33 points in 16 games.

Rookie Hardarshan Hoonjan continues to play well in net for the Sockeyes, picking up his sixth win in 10 starts. He sports a solid .906 save percentage.

“Hoonjan has given us some stability in net, and once he played eight games we decided to card him,” Robinson explains. “And up front, we’ve taken a more balanced, four-line approach. We felt we needed to get some more secondary scoring if we wanted to have success in the long term.”

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