Whaler netminder Evan Paul won his first playoff game for the club in Game 4.| Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns/White Rock Whalers.
'Big Goal’ Cole Svendson records second postseason hat trick
CENTENNIAL ARENA – As Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus reverberated throughout the rink, jubilant Whaler “Big Goal” Cole Svendson raised his hands in triumph as he was dog-piled by his teammates.
“Big Goal” Cole’s shot from the slot zipped through the legs of Delta Ice Hawk goalie Merick Erickson eight-and-a-half minutes into overtime for a nail-biting 5-4 White Rock victory in Game 4 of the Tom Shaw Conference Final on Mar. 13.
“We had a good effort there from everyone on our team, especially our 20-year-olds,” Svendson said. “That wasn’t going to be our last game.”
"Big Goal" Cole Svendson is on a tear as he leads the postseason goal race with 10. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns/White Rock Whalers.
Svendson is correct: the Whalers did avoid a four-game sweep, but the Ice Hawks have a commanding series lead after identical scorelines in Games 1 through 3: all 4-1 wins for Delta.
Sher-WIN line back together
The Whalers do have glimmers of hope. Head coach Jason Rogers made two major decisions for Game 4: first, he decided to put the band back together.
The top line of Svendson, centreman Zach Sherwin and captain Chris Fortems were given a wake-up call in Game 3, where the offensive talents were split up, and the Whalers struggled to stay in a penalty-filled contest.
With the last line change at home, the Sherwin line provided all the offence the Whalers needed in a topsy-turvy match-up.
And second, Rogers put backup goalie Evan Paul in net for Game 4. It was the 20-year-old’s first start for the Whalers in the playoffs and he faced 44 shots.
Fortems (one goal, two assists) opened the scoring when he one-timed a pass from Svendson.
“Big Goal” Cole followed up with his first of the night on the power play.
But Delta’s Colin Jang and Tye Hemenway responded to tie the game at 2-2.
After Svendson again connected on the man advantage, the Ice Hawks regrouped and Brayden Sinclair beat Paul with six-and-a-half minutes left in the third period.
A mere nine seconds later, Zach Sherwin responded with his eighth of the postseason to put the Pod ahead 4-3.
After only 90 seconds of duty earlier this series, Whaler goalie Evan Paul backstopped the Pod to their first win over Delta. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns/White Rock Whalers.
Luck be a Lucchesi tonight
After only seeing 90 seconds of action earlier in this series, Game 4 was Paul’s chance to shine. It was also almost his last chance after the Ice Hawks had a fortuitous bounce go their way.
With three minutes left in the third, Whalers and Ice Hawks fought for possession of the puck on the side boards. Paul lost track of the play and a split second later, Ice Hawk Alex Lucchesi’s shot trickled into the White Rock net.
The Pod rallied around Paul and Svendson’s game-winner took care of the rest.
‘Fighting for their lives’: Coach Rogers
“You have three 20-year-olds fighting for their lives in the hockey world,” White Rock head coach Jason Rogers commented about his top line of Svendson, centreman Zach Sherwin and captain Chris Fortems, who had a combined 11 points.
At press time March 14, Svendson led the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) postseason in goals with 10; Sherwin remained on top of the overall scoring race with 18 points.
To put Svendson’s dominance into perspective, no other Whaler had ever scored a hat trick in the playoffs since the club joined the PJHL in 2018.
One-hour break, then back to work. “Enjoy the moment and let’s get back to work on Thursday,” Rogers concluded.
Now, the series shifts back to the Ladner Leisure Centre for Game 5 on Thursday, Mar. 16. start time: 7:30 p.m.
POST GAME AUDIO with Coach Rogers and Fortems, Svendson and Sherwin
Some Whalers have "never been in an overtime game at this level before...just focus on the importance of getting pucks out, pucks in. Very simple: Hockey 101," Coach Jason Rogers said of his plan for sudden-death.
Live Audio with Coach Rogers
"I think if we play as a team and play our game, we should be good and just keep rolling forward into Game 6," Fortems predicted.