Offensive juggernauts set to face off

By Don Fennell

Published 12:20 PST, Tue February 27, 2018

The Tunnel Series begins Thursday in Richmond.

Geographic rivals, separated by the George Massey Tunnel, Delta Ice Hawks and Richmond Sockeyes were also statistically the top two teams in the Pacific Junior Hockey League during the regular season. So when they drop the puck shortly after 7 p.m. in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Tom Shaw Conference final, the anticipation will be red-hot.

Clearly there is little to choose between the teams. While Delta finished atop the standings with 38 wins in 44 games, the Sockeyes were no slouchers either with a 33-8-1-2 record. As for the season series between the two clubs, it was even at two wins apiece.

Delta kicked things off with a 5-2 win Sept. 21 at Minoru Arenas. Goalie Jordan Naylor, the first star of the game, made 28 saves as the Ice Hawks built up a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Richmond, with back-up goalie Hardarshan Hoonjan making 31 saves, blanked Delta 3-0 Nov. 14 at Ladner Leisure Centre. Richmond forward Brett Gelz’s strong overall game earned him first-star honours, while teammate Ty Paterson had two assists.

Richmond outlast Delta 6-5 in overtime in the third meeting Dec. 7 at Minoru. Delta outshot Richmond 40-38 in the game, with Richmond captain Tyler Andrews completing a hard track with the fourth-period winner. He also earned an assist. Delta captain Dhaliwal had two goals and two assists.

Delta won the most recent game, 4-1, Jan. 30 at Ladner Leisure Centre. The Ice Hawks outshot the Sockeyes 45-24.

Richmond advanced to the conference final with a 4-1 series win over North Vancouver Wolf Pack in the opening round of the playoffs, while Delta swept Grandview Steelers in four straight games.

The Sockeyes defeated North Vancouver 5-4 in overtime in Game 5 Feb. 22 at Minoru. Arjun Badh scored the winning goal, from Andrews, at 1:25 of the second OT period. Andrews paced Richmond with three goals.

Aldergrove Kodiaks will face the Abbotsford Pilots for the Harold Brittain Conference title. The Kodiaks earned a 4-1 series win over Ridge Meadows Flames, while the Pilots swept Langley Trappers.

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