Photo by Don Fennell
Richmond Sockeyes opened their 2017-18 Pacific Junior Hockey League season in dramatic fashion Thursday at Minoru Arena, staging a furious third-period comeback to edge the North Vancouver Wolf Pack 6-5 in overtime.
Ironically, the Sockeyes had the NFL opener between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs playing in their dressing room prior to game time, and were discussing the Patriots’ historic comeback against the Atlanta Flacons in last year’s Super Bowl.
Despite dominating territorial play and outshooting the Wolf Pack 44-19, the Sockeyes found themselves trailing their game 5-2 after two periods. But instead of surrendering, the Sockeyes came out for the third period determined. Captain Tyler Andrews, who scored twice in a span of just over a minute midway through the frame, led the resurgence. He also picked up two assists, setting up both of rookie Nicolas Bizzutto’s game-tying and game-winning goals.
“Timing is everything,” a relieved head coach Steve Robinson said of his first league victory. “If we had to sit on a 6-2 loss for seven days (Richmond isn’t scheduled to play again until Sept. 14) the boys would have been pretty grumpy. Even though it’s only one game, it served us well as a character builder yet was a good wake-up call as well. There’s a lot of parity around the league,”
Robinson said the team’s final pre-season wind-up—a trip to Princeton that included a pair of exhibition games against the local junior team—accomplished his goals.
“I think it helped to galvanize us,” he said. “We had three good days up there and I expect it to pay dividends well beyond (the season opener).”
The Sockeyes will play host to the Port Moody Panthers Sept. 14 at Minoru Arenas. Face-off is 7 p.m.
EYE BROWSE: Richmond started the season with six anticipated starters out of the lineup. The Sockeyes then lost five players to injuries during the game. While most of those injuries are anticipated to be minor, Robinson said a knee injury to Ari Sky could be more serious. He said the Sockeyes are fortunate to have great depth and has been selling that message to the players.
“It’s going to take 25 guys to win a championship,” he said. “You’re not going to win with only 20. Sometimes that means sacrifices once in a while.”