Sockeyes Sink Whalers, 5-3

White Rock goalie Keegan Maddocks faced 44 shots and was tagged with his first loss of the season on Sept. 16. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns / White Rock Whalers.

Teams rack up 78 penalty minutes in rough and tumble affair

CENTENNIAL ARENA – After the White Rock Whalers eliminated the Richmond Sockeyes in last year’s postseason, their rivalry was reignited Sept. 16 with constant scrums and goal mouth battles.

White-hot Whaler Nathan Bran. (Alistair Burns / White Rock Whalers)

Saddled with a 2-0 deficit, the Whalers had an inspired three-goal comeback courtesy of Kaz Yamazaki, who notched his first of the campaign, and Nathan Bran, who lit the lamp twice.

Bran displayed his on-ice intelligence: immediately after his face-off win, the lanky 20-year-old alertly fired the puck past screened Sockeye goalie Thomas Popa.

But the Pod’s hopes were snuffed out halfway through the third period when Richmond’s Teo Lin buried a rebound to tie the game at 3-3. The Sockeyes went on to a 5-3 victory.

Richmond (four wins, no losses) handed the Pod (two wins, one loss) their first defeat of the 2023-2024 season.

‘Hungry’ Leroux picks two apples

New Whaler winger Derek Leroux assisted on both of Bran’s goals. “It’s awesome – I mean, I’ve known Bran since I was eight years old,” Leroux pointed out.

Whether goals or assists, Leroux has a simple philosophy. “I’m always hungry for the puck.”

Only a few weeks into the regular season, the animosity was apparent.

Almost every stoppage in play, there was plenty of chirping from both sides as Richmond racked up 46 penalty minutes to White Rock’s 32.

Stand by me

“You got to stand up for yourself – stand up for your teammates – and you got to get under [Richmond’s] skin,” Whaler alternate captain Kaz Yamazaki commented.

Yamazaki, 19, is one of the few Whaler veterans who returned to Centennial after most of his teammates from last season finished their junior careers. (In the Pacific Junior Hockey League, young men can skate from the ages of 16 to 20).

“We need guys like him,” said White Rock head coach Brien Gemmell. “Helps lead our young guys into battle every night.”

Gemmell also pointed out that Yamazaki has been an effective linemate with captain Travis Smythe and new Whaler Dylan Heer.

The Whalers will lace up for a grudge match against Richmond this Sunday, Sept 24th, at 2:45 p.m. in Centennial Arena.

Whaler alternate captain Kaz Yamazaki scored Sept. 17. | (Alistair Burns / White Rock Whalers)

POST GAME AUDIO with Coach Brien Gemmell, Derek Leroux and Kaz Yamazaki

Head Coach Brien Gemmell chats about playing through adversity.

Whaler Derek Leroux on his skill set that he brings to the club.

Whaler Kaz Yamazaki will always stick up for his teammates.