Coming off a season that saw them advance all the way to the Pacific Junior Hockey League championship finals, the White Rock Whalers will be aiming for a repeat performance when they hit the ice this week for the start of the junior ‘B’ hockey season.
With training camp and the exhibition schedule behind them, the Whalers will kick off the regular season Thursday, Sept. 15, when they travel up the road to battle their city rival Surrey Knights at the North Surrey Rec Centre. On Saturday, the Whalers – who were beat in the PJHL finals last spring by the Langley Trappers – will hold their home-opener at Centennial Arena, against the visiting Ridge Meadows Flames. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Last season, the Whalers finished the regular season with a 27-16-1 record (win-loss-overtime loss), which was a franchise-best mark, though good for only fourth in the PJHL’s very competitive Tom Shaw Conference. However, in the playoffs, the Pod caught fire, winning a first-round playoff series against the North Vancouver Wolf Pack, who were the conference champs in the regular season.
The best-of-seven series victory – which White Rock won in six games – was the franchise’s first-ever playoff series win. In the next round, they faced off against the Delta Ice Hawks, winning that series 4-2 to advance to the final against Langley.
In the off-season, the Trappers, like every junior hockey team, dealt with a moderate amount of roster turnover, though head coach Jason Rogers noted to Peace Arch News after last season’s loss to the Trappers that he was hopeful that a core group of as many as a dozen players would return this year.
In recent weeks, the team has made a series of roster announcements, adding defenceman Cole Dennis-Sharma – former captain of the Vancouver Thunderbirds U18 team – as well as forward Jaden Pawluk from the Valley West Giants U16 program; Semiahmoo Minor Hockey product Max Woodward and most recently, forward Max Richard, who was acquired via trade last week from the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s Nanaimo Buccaneers in exchange for a player-development fee.
Regardless of what the lineup looks like, however, Rogers made one thing clear at the end of last season: after advancing all the way to the finals, “now, expectations go up, because we’ve been there before.”
For a full schedule of games, visit www.pjhl.net