Pod Begins Jr. A – Tier 2 Campaign With ‘W’

New Whaler captain Travis Smythe (left) takes a ceremonial face-off from PJHL commissioner Trevor Alto (centre) and his family against Aldergrove Kodiak Wendell Adriano Sept. 9. Smythe said that it was "amazing to be named as the captain.”

New Whaler Nathan Bran notches hat trick in 5-0 victory over Kodiaks

CENTENNIAL ARENA – The 2023-2024 White Rock Whalers needed only 12 minutes for a game-winning goal in their return to Pacific Junior Hockey League on Sept. 9.

Whaler Nathan Bran notched a hat trick Sept. 9.

New Whaler Jeevin Bal fed a pass through the skates of Aldergrove Kodiak defenders and onto the stick of linemate Nathan Bran. Then, Bran’s forehand-to-backhand deke and high wrist shot beat Aldergrove Kodiak goalie Kyle Spak for a 1-0 lead.

Bran and the Whalers never looked back. He added two more goals in a sparkling debut for the Pod.

Chemistry key to victory

The Whalers “already feel like a team [with] good chemistry out there,” Bran said.  The 20-year-old veteran singled out his linemates, Derek Leroux, 19, who also scored twice, and Jeevin Bal, 18, who recorded three assists.

Leroux’s second goal came halfway through the middle frame when he cooly took a breakaway feed. His head fake pulled Spak’s pads just wide enough for a five-hole finish.

For all three linemates, this is their first season with the Whalers. Bran and Leroux skated for other PJHL teams last season while Sept. 9 was Bal’s junior debut.

‘Heart’s here’ in White Rock: Maddocks

There have been plenty of other line-up changes since you last read about the Whalers. Keegan Maddocks, 20, returned between the pipes. He stopped all 22 shots for a shutout against Aldergrove.

“My heart’s here with the Whalers,” Maddocks commented. “Nothing like White Rock. I love Centennial.”

This year is the netminder’s third year in White Rock. Last season, he laced up for the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters.

Meet the new boss

New White Rock head coach Brien Gemmell recorded his first regular season victory with the Pod. He was pleased with Maddocks’s poise and communication, as he handled the puck “extremely well.” earlier in the spring, Gemmell became the second head coach in the franchise’s history after Jason Rogers led the Whalers for the previous four seasons.

Gemmell, the athletic director at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, has coached hockey at various levels for more than three decades. For the past seven years, he was in charge of the U-18 Cloverdale Colts.

In regards to his new team, the Whalers, Gemmell liked his squad’s “pace of play.” Going forward, he said that the long-term goal is for the Pod to be a consistent “three-to-four-line team.”

Jr. ‘A’ footnote

A reminder that the PJHL is no longer Jr. ‘B’. Instead, B.C. Hockey has reclassified all Jr. ‘B’ leagues across the province as Jr. ‘A’ – Tier 2.

Whaler goalie Keegan Maddocks recorded a 22-save shutout. (Alistair Burns / White Rock Whalers)

POST GAME AUDIO with Whalers Coach Brien Gemmell, Nathan Bran and Keegan Maddocks

Head Coach Brien Gemmell on how he came to the Pod and his coaching philosophy.

Whaler Nathan Bran after his hat-trick.

Whaler Keegan Maddocks with a masterful 22-save shut-out.