Pod advances to first PJHL final
Alternate captain Matt Burry (89) has used the Pod's underdog status as motivation during this postseason run. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns, White Rock Whalers.
WHITE ROCK – The White Rock Whalers skate into the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) championship final cognizant that their mission has not yet been accomplished.
The Whalers – first-time Tom Shaw Conference champions – will look to best the Langley Trappers, the Harold Brittain Conference champions, in a seven-game series that starts March 18 at Langley’s George Preston Arena.
A reminder that the home games for the Whalers will not be held in Centennial Arena. Instead, the Pod will play out of South Surrey Arena and host Game 2 on Tuesday, Mar. 22 at 7 p.m. and Game 4 on Saturday, Mar. 26 at 7 p.m.
White Rock and Langley are virtual strangers. In the regular season, the Whalers only played the Trappers twice and split those games, with the last meeting back on Oct. 20, 2021.
Who let the underdogs out?
Since the playoffs started a month ago, the fourth-seeded Whalers have been on a remarkable run. In the first round, the Whalers defeated the top-ranked North Vancouver Wolf Pack in six games. Then, the Pod took out the Delta Ice Hawks in six to advance to the PJHL final.
“I’ve heard that a few people were surprised we made it this far,” said Whaler alternate captain Matt Burry. He looks forward to proving the doubters “wrong like we have all playoffs as the underdog.”
Burry believed that the Pod learned the hard way against North Van and Delta that “patience is a virtue” as patience and discipline wears opponents out. Against Langley, staying out of the box will be crucial, he said.
Overall, the Trappers have the postseason advantage on special teams. Langley is chugging along on the man advantage (32 percent) and has an outstanding penalty kill (90 percent).
The Whalers are no slouches themselves, with a powerplay efficiency of 22 percent and a penalty kill of 84 percent.
Rust and relaxation
A vital question that will be answered in Game 1: will the Trappers be rusty? In the Brittain conference final, Langley swept the Ridge Meadows Flames. The Trappers haven’t laced up for a game since March 7 – an 11-day break – before facing the Whalers.
White Rock head coach Jason Rogers called the Trappers a “very, very disciplined” team.
Pod holds unique Olympic home-ice advantage in South Surrey Arena
The Whalers had a perfect record of six home wins in the postseason in Centennial Arena. Now, Rogers will have a unique challenge on his hands: a move to home games in South Surrey Arena.
The Jr. ‘A’ rink is Olympic-sized and provides an extra 15 feet of width – perfect for offensive creativity on the sideboards.
The coach has mentioned numerous times that the Whalers do not want to get into a “track meet” mentality of 1980s firewagon hockey. Instead, the Whalers will attempt to keep the Trappers to the perimeter – a challenge with the larger ice surface
Keegan Maddocks has been stellar in the postseason, with a 7-2 record. Now, he has a chance to guide the Whalers to a PJHL championship. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns, White Rock Whalers.
Maddocks receives support
Between the pipes, Whaler goalie Keegan Maddocks will have his chance for PJHL glory. A former Western Hockey League netminder, Maddocks bounced around numerous teams in the past year before returning to the Pod and has seven wins and two losses in the postseason.
Rogers said that the team provides both Maddocks and back-up goalie Adam Winters with a “tight-knit group, a high level of accountability and a high level of support.”
At the other end of the ice, Whaler sniper Jayson Beauregard leads the team with 10 postseason goals. His confidence is back.
“I’ve never felt better than I have ever before,” the 20-year-old winger said. “We’re playing great hockey right now and everyone is confident.”