Michael De Luca (front) battles with a Delta Ice Hawks opponent for the puck during a PIJHL game earlier this season. De Luca scored once in a 5-3 win over the Port Moody Black Panthers Friday night.

Devils seek consistency

Junior B hockey team defeats Port Moody, loses to North Vancouver

It seems the North Vancouver Wolf Pack is intent on challenging the North Delta Devils for a playoff berth.

Playing in Squamish a year ago, the Wolf Pack didn’t come close to a top four placing in the Tom Shaw Conference, winning just six of 46 games to finish 37 points back of fourth place North Delta.

The Devils had a chance to build a six-point advantage on the Wolf Pack Saturday night in North Vancouver, but fell behind early and couldn’t catch up in a 3-1 loss.

The Wolf Pack are now just one win away from matching their total of last season, and with a 5-7-1-2 (won-loss-overtime loss-tie) record, they are in the conference basement, but just two points back of the 6-6-3 Devils.

For North Delta, the loss came on the heels of a 5-3 victory over the Port Moody Black Panthers on home ice Friday night at the Sungod Arena. The split of two weekend games is another example of inconsistency, said head coach Grant Armstrong.

“We have a great game one night, then don’t play up to potential the next,” Armstrong said. “We have a young squad that shows some immaturity at times. But we’re taking some steps forward.”

On Saturday night, North Vancouver held a 36-31 shots on goal advantage, led 2-0 after one period, then made it 3-0 with a shorthanded goal with one minute to play. Stefan Burzan netted the lone North Delta goal with 41 seconds left to play.

Against Port Moody Friday night, the Devils fired 58 shots at Port Moody netminders Zachary Station and Nicholas Taylor, but North Delta trailed 2-1 seven minutes into the second frame. The offence produced in the second half of the game, with goals from Michael De Luca, Eben Norman and Michal Urbaniuk putting the home side up 4-2 after 40 minutes.

The Panthers pulled to within one midway through the third period, but just 80 seconds later, Darren Asuncion scored on the powerplay. Stephen Campbell netted the first Devils goal.

After watching his team establish a win-one, lose-one pattern through the first third of the season, Armstrong has seen enough to know the Devils are capable of putting together some back-to-back victories.

“Consistency comes from confidence,” he said. “Once we get some confidence, we’ll go on a roll.”

Until then, there’s still some work to do at both ends of the rink. Defensive zone breakdowns and a lack of finish around the opposition net are the two main areas of concern. The Devils rank sixth among the league’s 10 teams with a goals against average of 3.53, while their offensive production of 2.93 goals per game is lower than all but two squads. Jacob Wensley, with eight goals and 14 points in 13 games played, leads the Devils in scoring but is ranked 30th in the PIJHL.

“We have to improve our defensive zone coverage,” Armstrong explained. “We have to commit to it and understand it.

“And sometimes we do a good job in some aspects of it. But then we go down the other end of the ice and miss the net.”

North Delta will play twice next weekend, visiting the 3-13-0-0 Ridge Meadows Flames Friday night, before hosting the 6-6-2-2 Grandview Steelers Saturday at 6:45 p.m. at the Sungod Arena.

– Two Surrey residents are tied for the PIJHL scoring lead, each with 34 points in 16 games played.

Thomas Hardy, a 19-year-old forward with the Aldergrove Kodiaks, has scored 16 goals and assisted on 18 others. Justin Rai, a 17-year-old rookie forward with the league-leading Richmond Sockeyes, has 14 goals and 20 helpers. The two snipers have a seven-point lead on Spencer Traher of the Delta Ice Hawks, who has tallied 13 goals and assisted on 14 others.

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