Surrey Knights’ graduating hockey players include 2001-born Aaron Burton, Jayman Jutla, Montaro Uyeyama and Billy Thompson, all now “aged out” of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. (Photo: twitter.com/SurreyKnights)

Surrey Knights’ graduating hockey players include 2001-born Aaron Burton, Jayman Jutla, Montaro Uyeyama and Billy Thompson, all now “aged out” of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. (Photo: twitter.com/SurreyKnights)

JUNIOR ‘B’ HOCKEY

Surrey Knights look to next hockey season as PJHL playoffs start this week

Delta Ice Hawks will host the 2022 Cyclone Taylor Cup from April 7-10

As other Pacific Junior Hockey League teams prepare for playoffs, Surrey Knights are out of the race and look ahead to next season.

The team finished the 2021-22 season with four wins, 39 losses and one shootout loss, a record that landed the Knights at the bottom of the Harold Brittain Conference but not last in league standings. That dishonour goes to Port Moody Panthers, who finished with just three wins all season.

“What a privilege it has been to coach these young men,” first-year Knights head coach Andy Liboiron tweeted on Feb. 9.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group and what they have accomplished this season. Although we did not meet our end goal of making the playoffs, there have been many highlights this season. We implemented a mindset.”

The Knights ended their season Saturday (Feb. 12) with a 8-5 loss to Chilliwack Jets at Sardis Sports Complex. Two nights earlier, on Feb. 10, the Surrey squad fell 8-3 to the visiting Mission City Outlaws at North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex.

The Knights roster will be retooled ahead of next season with some roster moves and also the graduation of five players who have “aged out” of the league, including 2001-born players Aaron Burton, Jayman Jutla, Montaro Uyeyama, Billy Thompson and Jacob Tudan.

At the start of the season, Liboiron, 30, originally from Kitchener, Ontario, took over bench-boss duties from Gerry Leiper, who focused on general-management work for the Knights and also served as an associate coach this winter.

• RELATED STORY, from Sept. 2021: Knights’ rookie head coach aims to bring winning vibe to hockey team that has really struggled.

• READ ALSO: Surrey Knights lose season-opening hockey game, but have a winning ‘POG’ chain.

Posted to pjhl.net, the PJHL playoff schedule includes first-round matchups of White Rock/North Vancouver, Delta/Richmond and Ridge Meadows/Chilliwack. The league-leading Langley Trappers await their first-round opponent, either Mission or Aldergrove.

Starting Tuesday (Feb. 15) at Centennial Arena, White Rock Whalers will face off against the first-place North Vancouver Wolf Pack in their PJHL quarter-final playoff matchup.

Games 2 and 3 will shift to North Van’s Harry Jerome Arena on Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 19-20), with Game 4, if necessary, back in White Rock on Feb. 22.

The Whalers finished the regular season fourth in the PJHL’s Tom Shaw Conference, with a record of 27-16-1 (win-loss-overtime loss), which was 13 points back of the Wolf Pack, who lost just seven games in regulation time all season, plus five more in overtime. The 27-win total was a franchise record for the Whalers.

Delta Ice Hawks will host the 2022 Cyclone Taylor Cup this spring, and have earned an automatic berth in B.C.’s Junior ‘B’ hockey championship tournament. The winner of the PJHL’s Stonehouse Cup will also advance unless Delta is the league champion, then the runner-up will take the second PJHL berth. Details are posted on the league’s website, with a PDF file showing the playoff bracket.

Cyclone Taylor Cup games will take place at Ladner Leisure Centre from April 7-10. The action will involve four teams, including the Ice Hawks along with league-champion teams from the PJHL, Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) and Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL). Six round-robin games will be scheduled, followed by bronze- and gold-medal games.

The Ice Hawks were to host the Cyclone Taylor Cup in 2021, but the tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

with file from Nick Greenizan, Black Press Media

Junior B Hockey