September 4 2018 Delta- The season opener could not have gone much better for the Ice Hawks who welcomed Tom Shaw Conference rivals the North Vancouver Wolfpack to the Ladner Leisure centre as they began their defense of the PJHL Championship. After finishing the Pre-season with one win in six games, the Ladner based club prevailed as 5-3 victors vs a Wolfpack team who failed to make the playoffs last season.
Jordy Engleson got the start in goal for the Ice Hawks coming off a 1-0 performance vs Cambell River. The Japanese born goalie enters his second full season with the Hawks and looks to build upon his rookie year after posting a .940 save percentage through 20 games. Hhe will likely be the Hawk’s starter for this year. Between the pipes for The Wolfpack was Coquitlam’s Zach Holloway.
Prior to puck-drop the Ice Hawks were presented with their medals and rings from last years PJHL championship in a ceremony that saw nearly everyone involved with the club take the ice in some capacity.
The Ice Hawks dominated the first five minutes of the game, never giving the Wolfpack a sniff of the puck; but that all changed when Jonathan Rees picked up a cross-checking penalty for the Ice Hawks. After maintaining pressure in the offensive end on the power-play, The Wolfpack crashed the net before Nathan McCarnan jammed in the loose puck following a pass from Esposito for a 1-0 lead. The goal came as a bit of surprise to everyone in the arena, as the away team had been pretty well out battled within the games first five minutes.
Just seconds later the Wolfpack would add another as their captain Justin Lee went on a breakaway and slid the puck between the legs of Engelson. Things had begun to unravel for the home team, a demoralizing fact after such a promising start.
After conceding two goals within mere seconds of each other, Delta responded with a tally of their own. Following a battle in the corner, Brad Fortin tipped in a pass to bring Delta within one. All three goals came within a minute and a half of each other; as the crowd inside the Ladner Leisure Centre was treated to some early season excitement in the first period. After conceding the second goal and scoring the first of their own, Delta had been woken up and had returned to the form they had shown early in the period. The last five minutes of the frame would offer even more excitement as goaltender Jonathan Holloway was forced to leave the game after what appeared to be an equipment issue, allowing rookie Nik Hoem to make his debut between the pipes for the Wolfpack. Hoem’s first task was to shut out an Ice Hawks power-play, a task he was unable to achieve. The Ice Hawks tied the game up with a shot off the stick of Ji-Hwan Kim that found its way through the legs of Hoem with three seconds remaining in the man advantage.
The second period offered nothing in the way of excitement. The Ice Hawks peppered the Wolfpack net with shots, but North Van’s rookie goaltender stood strong as the second finished as it started with the score knotted at two.
The final frame began with a bang as the hosts quickly got to work on the power-play, and for the second time in the game found a goal with the man advantage. They cycled the puck smoothly to get a goal just 1:15 into the period coming from a shot at the blueline from defenseman Max Daerendinger. Jonathan Rees would add another power play goal for the Ice Hawks with ten minutes remaining leading to the fourth unanswered goal from the home team. The Wolfpack responded quickly though, cutting the lead back down to one as they scored their third goal as soon as play restarted. Despite having more than double the shots for most of the game, the Ice Hawks were never able to run away on the scoreboard. The game came down to special teams as many close games do, and with the Hawks scoring of 3/6 power plays it proved too much for the Wolfpack penalty kill to handle. Delta would add a late empty net goal to extend their margin of victory to 5-3.
The Hawks dominated on the shot count, winning 37-18; but that did not translate into any more goals. Finishing your chances is important in hockey, and when a team gets more than double the shots of the other you would expect them take charge in the game. Although they got their desired result, the Ice Hawks will have to finish more chances if they are to have any shot at retained their PJHL title this season.
The Ice Hawks will visit their Lower Mainland rivals the Richmond Sockeyes on Thursday at Minorou Arena as they hit the road for the first time this season.
Written for Sportswave.ca