Déjà vu: Whalers vs Ice Hawks Preview

Photo courtesy of David Stevens Photography.

2023 Tom Shaw Conference Final a repeat of last year

WHITE ROCK – A lot has changed for the White Rock Whalers since they last faced off against the Delta Ice Hawks in the Shaw Conference final a year ago.

In 2023, the Whalers have a new captain with a league scoring title; different netminders, and a revamped defensive corps that has matured in a hurry.

Let’s explore a playoff preview between the first-seeded Ice Hawks and the third-place Whalers. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series will take place Tuesday, March 7, in the Ladner Leisure Centre.

Current Pod goalie Mark Paton. Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns / White Rock Whalers./em>

Underdogs with bite

Similar to how former Whaler goalie Keegan Maddocks led the six-game defeat of the Ice Hawks last year, current Pod starter Mark Paton will be the lynchpin for success.

Paton, 19, joined the Whalers in a trade earlier this season after two-and-a-half years with the Aldergrove Kodiaks. He has played every minute so far – 300 – in the 2023 postseason.

Underneath his calm exterior, Paton’s numbers trumpet his effectiveness: four wins and one loss with a 2.00 goals-against-average in a five-game series victory over the Richmond Sockeyes.

Underdogs with bite

Similar to how former Whaler goalie Keegan Maddocks led the six-game defeat of the Ice Hawks last year, current Pod starter Mark Paton will be the lynchpin for success.

Paton, 19, joined the Whalers in a trade earlier this season after two-and-a-half years with the Aldergrove Kodiaks. He has played every minute so far – 300 – in the 2023 postseason.

Underneath his calm exterior, Paton’s numbers trumpet his effectiveness: four wins and one loss with a 2.00 goals-against-average in a five-game series victory over the Richmond Sockeyes.

Current Pod goalie Mark Paton. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns.

Former Pod goalie Keegan Maddocks led the Whalers to victory over Delta in March 2022. | Photo courtesy of David Stevens Photography.

Mark Paton doesn't believe the Whalers look like underdogs against Delta in 2023. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns.

Paton’s Philosophy: Saves 101

He outlined his simple philosophy for saves: first, teammates will “box out” – or steer the opposition – to the outside of Paton’s crease; second, he will use every inch of his rangy six-foot-one frame to cut down angles.

So far, Paton has rarely given opponents “anything to look at. It’s been working well.”

“Maybe we look like the underdogs from the outside. But I think we’re really rolling right now. Everyone’s feeling good, everyone’s playing well. So, I think we have a good chance to surprise [Delta],” Paton said of the upcoming series.

For the Ice Hawks, head coach Steve Robinson played both goalies in a five-game series victory over the Grandview Steelers.

Each will provide a stern test. Zach Shaughnessy had two wins (one shutout) and a loss with a miniscule goals-against-average of 0.67; Merik Erickson notched the other two wins.

<h4‘Big Goal’ on a roll Since October, the Whalers have been dependent on their top line’s chemistry. If “Big Goal” Cole Svendson, centreman Zach Sherwin and captain Chris Fortems continue to light lamps, then victory is possible. As of press time, Mar. 4, Svendson led the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) with six play-off goals and Sherwin leads overall postseason scoring with 12 points (five goals, seven assists). Fortems has eight play-off points after he recorded the most points this year in the PJHL regular season.

A year ago, in the 2022 Shaw Conference final, Whaler Jacob Dorohoy (far right) was involved in plenty of scrums. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns.

True grit

On the blue line, second-year Whaler defenceman Cole Dennis-Sharma called his teammates a “gritty group.” Dennis-Sharma has his own grit as the six-foot blue liner has blocked numerous shots this postseason.

“I’m really excited!” he exclaimed of the Shaw Conference Final.

White Rock head coach Jason Rogers had similar thoughts. He was “thrilled to go through to the next round” and looked forward to a “competitive series” with Delta.

Delta: Messrs. Consistent

Meanwhile, the Ice Hawks are quite similar to last year’s squad – pugnaciously resilient until the final whistle. Delta’s forwards will use their speedy skating strides to try to beat Whaler defencemen to the outside.

Unlike the Whalers, the Ice Hawks rely on goals from all four lines. This consistent approach led Delta to notch 21 goals and only allow eight in a five-game series victory over the Grandview Steelers.

Keep an eye on Delta’s top postseason scorers: Alex Scouras and Carson Merriman are tied for the team lead with five points each.

POST GAME AUDIO with Coach Rogers and Chris Fortems

"You can't say enough about Chris. He stepped up to the challenge of taking a leadership role as captain," head coach Jason Rogers said of Chris Fortems.

David Moody and Travis Smythe are just "huge guys on the PK that give us energy," Whalers captain Chris Fortems said of the Pod's unsung heroes.

NEXT UP | Playoffs |
Tom Shaw Conference Final

Game 1 | Tuesday, Mar. 7th | 7:30 p.m.
Whalers travel to Delta to take on the Ice Hawks in a best-of-seven.

Ladner Leisure Centre

Game 2 | Saturday, Mar. 11th | 7:30 p.m.
Whalers host the Delta Ice Hawks.

Centennial Arena

Game 3 | Sunday, Mar. 12th | 7:45 p.m.
Whalers travel to Delta to take on the Ice Hawks.

Ladner Leisure Centre

Game 4 | Monday, Mar. 13th | 7:00 p.m.
Whalers host the Delta Ice Hawks.

Centennial Arena

Game 5 *If necessary | Thursday, Mar. 16th | 8:30 p.m.
Whalers travel to Delta to take on the Ice Hawks.

Ladner Leisure Centre

Game 6 *If necessary | Saturday, Mar. 18th | 5:00 pm
Whalers host the Delta Ice Hawks.

South Surrey Arena

Game 7 *If necessary | Tuesday, Mar. 21st | 7:30 p.m.
Whalers travel to Delta to take on the Ice Hawks.

Sungod Arena

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