White Rock captain Chris Fortems scored the game-winner in Game 2 of the Shaw Conference semis Feb. 23. "I love it! I think we're just getting warmed up," Fortems exclaimed. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns.
Chris Fortems, Zach Johns strike on consecutive man advantages
MINORU ARENA – Perhaps the visiting Whalers should petition the opposition for extended pre-game ceremonies more often.
Jokes aside, the Pod used the delay to their advantage in Game 2 of the Shaw Conference semi-final. All four lines skated with an immense amount of pep and fought hard for puck possession in a 5-2 victory over the Richmond Sockeyes Feb. 23.
The Whalers did exactly what head coach Jason Rogers has preached for years: as the away side, achieve a split in the opening two play-off games before returning to Centennial Arena.
Alternate captain Zach Sherwin netted the first and last goals of Game 2. | Photo courtesy of David Stevens Photography.</p
Blast from the past
Only four minutes into Game 2, White Rock’s Zach Sherwin pounced on a loose puck and beat Sockeye goalie Ben Montgomery.
Then, the Pod went old school; Maxwell Kovach made a pass at centre ice to linemate Kieran D’Souza.
When he crossed the Richmond blue line, the six-foot-one rookie put his head down – and all of his strength – into a snapshot that flashed past Montgomery’s glove.
D’Souza’s awesome 1980s effort staked the Whalers to a 2-0 lead.
“Just trying to shoot anything on net and it went in. So, I felt that that really helped us going forward,” D’Souza said.
White Rock head coach Jason Rogers agreed. “Kieran just continues to improve. He’s got a very calm disposition,” along with “incredible vision.”
Fish bite back
However, the Sockeyes begged to differ. In the middle frame, Richmond’s Justin Grant – on a rebound in the slot – and defenceman Michael McIntyre’s powerplay point shot had the home fans joyously waving their white towels.
With Game 2 knotted at 2-2, White Rock captain Chris Fortems, who had absorbed a number of checks, showed why he was the most dangerous man for scoring during the regular season.
Sherwin to ‘Forty’: Sublime moment of brilliance
On the man advantage in the third period, Whaler defenceman Dylan Travis passed to Sherwin at the left face-off circle.
Sherwin knew – Pod fans knew – heck even I knew! – that he would feather a pass to the opposite circle for a hungry Fortems.
But the Sockeyes were woefully out of position. Snap! Fortems hammered home his first of the postseason.
‘Came ready to win’: Fortems
“I love it! I think we’re just getting warmed up,” the captain exclaimed. “We came ready to play for playoffs.
We came ready to win a championship this year.”
A minute-and-a-half later, Whaler Zach Johns converted on another powerplay. The Pod went 2-for-7 with the extra man.
In the last minute, Sherwin picked off an errant Richmond pass and scored into the empty net.
Between the pipes, Whaler goalie Mark Paton picked up his first postseason victory with the club as he faced 27 shots.
Now the series will shift to two consecutive games in Centennial, where the Whalers had a perfect record of six wins and no losses during last year’s postseason run.
“We clearly want to get two wins there and just get this series over with,” D’Souza concluded.
POST GAME AUDIO with Coach Rogers, Chris Fortems & Kieran D'Souza
"Chris is pretty slippery and smart. He knows not to get involved and retaliate," White Rock head coach Jason Rogers commented on his captain's resilience after receiving heavy hits.
Live Audio with Coach Rogers
"I'm usually not a physical type of guy...I love it when guys try to hit me like that and I think the (Whalers) love it when the (Sockeyes) miss," captain Chris Fortems said of the battles in the corner during Game 2.
Live Audio with Chris Fortems
"My linemates are amazing. They always seem to find me when I'm open," rookie Kieran D'Souza acknowledged after his first postseason goal.