The White Rock Whalers are headed to their first-ever Pacific Coast Junior Hockey League final, after a series-clinching win Tuesday night over the Delta Ice Hawks.
Unlike most previous games in the best-of-seven series – four of five went to overtime or double-overtime – Tuesday night’s Game 6, which was played at Centennial Arena, was decided in regulation time, with White Rock coming back from an early deficit to win 4-3.
With the 4-2 conference final series victory, the Whalers – who are only in their fourth season in the PJHL – will now move on to battle the Langley Trappers for the league title. The schedule for the upcoming best-of-seven showdown has not yet been announced.
“It’s very cool for our program – we’ve come a long way in four years,” said team owner Ronnie Paterson.
Paterson noted that while the team’s rise from expansion newcomer to contender didn’t quite happen overnight – “We’re weren’t Vegas,” he quipped, referring to the NHL’s Golden Knights, who made it to the finals in Year 1 – he was certain the team would find relatively quick success under head coach Jason Rogers and his staff.
“We knew that we could ramp it up fairly quickly. We didn’t really give ourselves a timeline but we know how passionate and dedicated our coaches are, so I was always confident we could raise our standards relatively quickly.”
A pair of Beauregard goals, Margetson and a Fortems winning goal secured White Rock's FIRST EVER FRANCHISE CONFERENCE VICTORY.
The Pod advance to the PJHL Final to face the Langley Trappers
— WhiteRockWhalers (@WRWhalersHockey) March 16, 2022
On Tuesday, the two teams were knotted at 2-2 after 40 minutes of play, and Delta took a 3-2 lead just 1:23 into the third period, on a goal from Dalton MacGillivray, who scored his sixth of the playoffs.
The lead lasted just nine minutes, before White Rock’s Bryce Margetson scored his first of the playoffs to tie it, and less than a minute later, Chris Fortems scored to give the home team the lead, which they did not relinquish the rest of the way.
Jayson Beauregard – whom Rogers praised earlier in the series for his play – led the offence with his ninth and 10th goals of the playoffs. His playoff goal totals now equal his regular-season total, but in less than half the games played.
When the championship round hits the ice later this week, the Whalers will have their hands full against the Trappers. Langley is coming off a four-game sweep of the Ridge Meadows Flames in their conference final, and will be well-rested – they haven’t played since March 7.
The Trappers, who won their first-round series in five games, finished tied for first place in the entire PJHL during the regular season, losing just nine times in regulation in 44 games. They finished with 68 points – the same total as the North Vancouver Wolf Pack, who were upset by White Rock earlier in the playoffs.
Langley’s roster includes four forwards who have all scored at a point-per-game clip or higher during the post-season, led by Brendan O’Grady and Lleyton Shearon, both of whom have 13 points in nine games.
They’re strong in net, too, with 2004-born goalie Taje Gill sporting a perfect 6-0 win-loss record and a sparkling .958 save-percentage in the playoffs. Caedon Bellmann has played three games, too, winning two of them.
The Whalers are no slouches when it comes to goaltending, either – Keegan Maddocks has a 7-2-2 playoff record (wins-losses-overtime losses) and sports a save-percentage of .924, which is well above average. He has played more than any other netminder in the PJHL during the playoffs.
White Rock also had two skaters in the top 10 in playoff scoring: Zach Sherwin is tied for first in the league with 19 points in 12 games, and Tyler Price – the Whalers’ captain – sits sixth, with 14 points. He is the PJHL’s highest scoring defenceman in the playoffs.