There were no fans in the stands to see it, but the White Rock Whalers kicked off their 2020-‘21 Pacific Junior Hockey League season with a win Thursday night over their city- an cohort-rival Surrey Knights.
The third-year junior ‘B’ team defeated the Knights 9-1 at the North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex, led by an flurry of goals in the second period.
After taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, thanks to a goal from 17-year-old rookie forward Milo Schneidmiller, the Whalers – who started the second period on the power play – turned on the offence in the middle frame with an early goal from Gianni Lattanzio, with assists to Samuel Dowell and Josten Hu; which was quickly followed by another, this time off the stick of Saul Khalifa to make it 3-0.
The barrage continued throughout the second, with White Rock leading 6-0 after 40 minutes. Additional goals game from Connor Beemish, Tyler Rogers and Lattanzio, who added his second of the game.
The shots through two periods were equally lopsided, 33-12 in favour of the visitors.
The Knights broke the Whalers’ shutout in the third period, but the six-goal cushion was restored later in the period thanks to a goal from Joseph Iannacone.
Zach Sherwin and David Moody added late goals to pad the lead.
Hu, Khalifa and Sherwin were named the game’s three stars, though exact point totals were unavailable as the PJHL website had yet to be updated by Friday morning.
A handful of teams, including the Knights, played their first regular-season games last weekend, though the Whalers were still in preseason mode at the time. While part of the league was opening the regular-season schedule, the Whalers were defeating the Ridge Meadows Flames 5-3 in an exhibition tilt in an game played in Abbotsford; due to COVID-19 protocols, the Flames are not yet allowed to play games in their usual home arena.
The Whalers opened the exhibition season Oct. 11 with a 6-1 win over Surrey.
This PJHL season is set to be just 36 games, with the season split into two halves. Instead of two conferences, teams are currently divided into four cohort groups – White Rock is in a division with Surrey, the Aldergrove Kodiaks and Ridge Meadows – and the teams will play amongst themselves for 18 games.
After that, the league will take a two-week quarantine break, after which the cohort groups will be re-arranged and teams will play the final 18 games after different competition.
The Whalers’ next game is set for Nov. 1 in Abbotsford against Ridge Meadows. They are currently scheduled to play their first home game, at Centennial Arena, on Nov. 7, although according to Whalers president Ronnie Paterson, there are still some COVID-19-related issues to work out before the league can play games there.
On Thursday, the Whalers announced their leadership group for the 2020-‘21 season.
Tyler Price will wear the captain’s ‘C’ on his jersey this season, while four players – Saul Khalifa, Ryan Doray, Connor Beemish and Tyler Rogers – will serve as alternate captains.
Price is the third captain in Whalers history. Last year, Calder Newson wore the ‘C’ for White Rock, and in the team’s inaugural season in 2018-‘19, the team started without a captain – instead rotating leadership responsibilities amongst a group of players – but by January gave the captaincy to veteran Matthew Rogers, who was in his final season of junior hockey.