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White Rock Whalers win first-ever playoff series with victory over Wolf Pack

Junior ‘B’ hockey team will now play Delta Ice Hawks in PJHL conference finals
White Rock Whalers goalie Keegan Maddocks led his team to a series-clinching victory Monday night at Centennial Arena. Maddocks stopped 37 shots as the Whalers defeated the North Vancouver Wolf Pack 6-2 to win the series in six games. (Alistair Burns/White Rock Whalers photo)

For the first time in franchise history, the White Rock Whalers are off to the second round of the Pacific Junior Hockey League playoffs.

The junior ‘B’ squad punched its ticket to the next round of the post-season Monday night at Centennial Arena, after a convincing 6-2 win over the higher-ranked North Vancouver Wolf Pack.

The victory gave the Whalers a 4-2 win in the best-of-seven showdown. They now advance to the conference finals, where they’ll square off against the Delta Ice Hawks. Delta advanced after defeating the Richmond Sockeyes in their first-round matchup.

That series went the distance, with the Ice Hawks winning a decisive Game 7 by a 1-0 score Monday night. Surrey’s Carson Merriman scored the winning goal.

In Game 6 Monday, the Whalers – who are in their fourth season in the PJHL – staked themselves a 2-0 lead by the midway point of the first period, on goals from Jayson Beauregard and Matt Burry, though North Vancouver’s Matthew Carniel cut the lead in half just a few minutes after Burry’s tally.

Ryden Mathieson restored White Rock’s two goal lead with a goal of his own in the second frame – a shorthanded marker that was the only goal of the period for either team – and in the third period, the Whalers poured on some insurance goals, both off the stick of forward Ewan Rennie, to seal the victory.

Ryan Hunter added a power-play goal late in the game for the Wolf Pack, and White Rock’s Cole Svendson scored an empty-netter with 2:21 left in the game.

Though a pair of Whalers had multi-point efforts – Rennie, with his two goals and captain Tyler Price, who had two assists – it could easily be argued that goaltender Keegan Maddocks was the difference maker for the victorious Semiahmoo Peninsula squad. The 18-year-old – who this season also suited up briefly in the BC Hockey League and, for one game, with the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers – stopped 37 of 39 shots en route to the win.

The Whalers finished the regular season fourth in the Tom Shaw Conference, with a franchise-best record of 27-16-1 (win-loss-overtime loss), which was 13 points back of North Vancouver, who have been the class of the PJHL for the last few years, and only lost seven games in regulation during the regular season.

The two clubs also faced off in the first-round of playoffs two seasons ago – the Whalers’ post-season debut – when North Van was the best junior ‘B’ squad in the province. That season, White Rock won the first game in overtime before the Wolf Pack won four straight to advance.

This season, the two clubs split six head-to-head games this season, and Whalers head coach Jason Rogers noted prior to the playoffs that his team was much improved from two years ago, and suggested his team had a great chance to beat the Wolf Pack and “make a healthy (playoff) run.”

“I love our group,” he said.

The Whalers opened the playoff series Feb. 15 in dominating fashion, beating North Van 7-1. The Wolf Pack evened the score four days later with a 3-2 win, but White Rock won Game 3, 4-3 in overtime, with Beauregard scoring the OT winner.

Game 4 also took extra time to decide, with White Rock eventually emerging victorious, 4-3 in double overtime. Rennie – who also scored the tying goal – potted the winner in that contest.

White Rock had a chance to clinch the series in Game 5 last Saturday night at North Van’s Harry Jerome Arena, but the home team kept hope alive with a 5-2 win to force a Game 6.

In the Game 5 loss, North Van scored twice in five seconds midway through the first period to take a lead they would not relinquish. The Whalers, meanwhile, had a chance to send the game in a totally different direction early, but a breakaway attempt by Zach Sherwin on the game’s first shift went wide of the net.

“If that goes in, it’s a different hockey game,” said Rogers. “But that’s life, I mean, that’s a playoff series. We didn’t expect to sweep – I don’t think either team expected to.”

The schedule for the second-round series between White Rock and Delta was not released by Peace Arch News’ press deadline Tuesday.

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