Photo by Don Fennell
Richmond Sockeyes would love nothing more than to be the first team since the Campbell River Storm in 2003 to win back-to-back provincial hockey championships.
But hoisting the Cyclone Taylor Cup, as they did in their home rink last spring, will take more than just playing well. A little luck is a must too.
The challenge becomes that much greater for a Richmond team short on experience at the junior level, with only a handful of returning players from their 2018 playoff run. Yet this is a Sockeyes’ team with all the ingredients needed—including potentially the biggest difference maker in Jeremy Kelleway.
The league’s top goaltender during the regular season, the 20-year-old Kelleway has the poise and experience any team hoping to go on long and successful playoff run must have. He’s also coming off a regular season in which he compiled a spectacular 1.91 goals-against average and won 23 of 34 games while posting seven shutouts. His save percentage of .938 reflected his consistency.
Despite finishing third overall in the Tom Shaw Conference standings at 30-10-3-1, the Sockeyes, with 64 points, were only five points back of North Vancouver Wolf Pack and Delta Ice Hawks which shared top spot.
But captain Matt Brown, one of the few returning players from the 2018 championship team, says the Sockeyes still haven’t shown the consistency he believes they’re capable of.
“I think with such a young team we are all going to have to buy in and play for each other,” he explains. “We have struggled to play a full 60-minute game and that will be a key in the playoffs.”
Still, if the Sockeyes had their bouts of inconsistency during the season there were reasons, not the least of which were injuries. But now they’re healthy and ready to go, Brown says.
“I think we just have to remind ourselves to take it shift by shift. As long as we all work together and play as a team we will have the ultimate success.”
Rookie Marcus Pantazis led the Sockeyes offensively during the regular campaign with 52 points in 43 games. He was also second on the club in goal scoring with 22, five behind fellow rookie Craig Schouten with 27.
Defenceman Jacob Keremidschieff set up much of the offence from the blueline, earning a team-high 36 assists.
Richmond’s title defence will begin with a quarter-final playoff matchup against the fourth-place Grandview Steelers (23-19-2-0) this week. Game 1 is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. at Minoru Arenas. The remainder of the best-of-seven series is scheduled as follows:
Game 2: Sunday, Feb. 17 at Burnaby Winter Club, 7:15 p.m.
Game 3: Monday, Feb. 18 at Minoru Arenas, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday, Feb. 20 at Burnaby Winter Club, 7:15 p.m.
Game 5: Thursday, Feb. 21 at Minoru Arenas, 7 p.m. (if needed)
Game 6: Sunday, Feb. 24 at Burnaby Winter Club, 7:15 p.m. (if needed)
Game 7: Monday, Feb. 25 at Minoru Arenas, 7:30 p.m. (if needed)
The Sockeyes and Steelers met four times during the regular season.
Sept. 20 at Minoru Arenas: Richmond 5 Grandview 2
Marcus Pantazis scored once and earned first star honours, and Jeremy Kelleway stopped 20 of 22 shots to pace the Sockeyes.
Oct. 14 at Burnaby Winter Club: Grandview 3 Richmond 1
First star Cale Dolan stopped 27 of 28 shots and Anthony Benevoli scored the winning goal to break a 1-1 tie early in the second period.
Dec. 6 at Minoru Arenas: Grandview 3 Richmond 1
Jack Hamilton’s unassisted goal 2:48 into the second period stood up as the winner.
First star Jeremy Kelleway stopped 34 of 36 shots in a losing cause, while his counterpart Cale Dolan was named second star after turning aside 25 of 26 shots.
Dec. 23 at Burnaby Winter Club: Richmond 4 Grandview 3
First star Thomas Von Schoenberg scored once and set up another for the victorious Sockeyes.