For the first time since 1989 – when the team played in the now-defunct West Coast Junior Hockey League – White Rock Whalers stepped onto the ice at Centennial Arena for a regular-season junior ‘B’ tilt.
On Saturday night, the Pacific Junior Hockey League expansion franchise lost its season-opener to the Richmond Sockeyes 4-3, and on Sunday, travelled north to Burnaby, where they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Grandview Steelers.
“It was good – there was a good atmospher (at the rink), and I thought we competed hard,” said Whalers head coach Jason Rogers.
The new team – which was born back in May, and is owned by longtime South Surrey businessman Ronnie Paterson – had ample opportunity to earn victories in each of the one-goal weekend defeats. Against Richmond, Surrey native Calder Newson, also a former Sockeye, scored the first goal of the Whalers’ season, potting a power-play goal 12:55 into the first period.
The Sockeyes responded less than two minutes later, however, and the game was knotted at 1-1 after 20 minutes of play.
In the second, Richmond took a 2-1 lead on a goal from Brice Kemp, and went up 4-1 by the midway point of the third period before the Whalers got back on the board.
With less than seven minutes to go in the game, White Rock’s Logan Webber scored his first of the season – with assists to Hayden Drance and Gregory Porter – and Saul Khalifa brought the score to 4-3 late, when he scored with just 11 seconds left on the clock.
Matthew Rogers picked up two assists in the loss, and goaltender Zachary Everett was busy in the crease, stopping 45 shots.
At Burnaby Winter Club Sunday night, it was the Steelers who scored first, with Emerson Kostner potting a power-play goal 3:32 into the game to give the home team the lead. Grandview led 2-0 after the first period, and the scoreboard stayed that way until midway through the second period, when the Whalers got on the board courtesy of a power-play goal from Drew Williams, with Leland Konrath and Ryan Kong picking up assists.
The two teams traded goals in the third, with the Steelers’ tally coming from Kyle Forbes and White Rock’s coming off the stick of Webber, with Newson picking up the assist.
“We got five goals (in two games) from four different goal-scorers, including two guys who weren’t in the league last year, so that’s a positive for us,” Rogers said.
Everett was once against between the pipes for White Rock, making 22 saves.
“Zach was really good for us – he gave us an opportunity (to win) both games,” the coach added.
White Rock’s neighbouring squad, the Surrey Knights – who went two seasons without a win and whose owner/coach sued the league last spring for alleged discrimination – also opened the 2018/19 PJHL season with a loss.
Last Thursday, the Knights dropped a 9-1 decision to the Port Moody Panthers at the North Surrey Recreation Centre.
The Panthers were up 3-0 in the first period before the Knights scored their lone goal of the game, on a Takumi Sakai shot. Assists were given to Amraj Gill and Parker Leiper.
Naveen Kainth took the loss after making 46 saves in the Knights’ net.
Michael Milosavljevic netted a hat-trick for the Panthers.
With John Craighead back behind the bench after serving a league-imposed suspension, the Knights are aiming to bounce back from a tough 2017-18 season that saw the team win one game.
Next up for the Knights is another home game Thursday against Richmond, followed by road battles Saturday in White Rock against the Whalers, and Sunday against Grandview.
– with files from Tom Zillich