Whaler netminder Gregory Sichitiu faced 22 shots and allowed two goals in his first Pacific Junior regular season victory, 5-2 against the Pt. Coquitlam Trailblazers on Sept. 23.| Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns / White Rock Whalers.
Backup goalie Gregory Sichitiu gives ‘big shout out to D’
CENTENNIAL ARENA – For his Jr. ‘A’ entrance exam, Whaler third-string goalie Gregory Sichitiu aced all five requirements: dress for success; show up early; ask intelligent questions; take notes; and be gracious in victory.
Sichitiu, 18, put a checkmark into every box: the rookie led the Whalers out early onto the ice before he picked up his first Pacific Junior ‘A’ regular season victory – 5-2 over the winless Port Coquitlam Trailblazers.
Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns / White Rock Whalers.
As for the other requirements, Sichitiu detailed the off-ice assists from veteran starter Keegan Maddocks on Sept. 23.
Maddocks has helped “me along the way mentally and physically…everything he tells me, I write down in my notes,” a beaming Sichitiu said. “Tonight’s not really about me though. It’s about getting the team the win.”
At the other end of the ice, Whaler Derek Leroux lit the lamp five minutes into the game as he fought through traffic to slot home a rebound past former Pod netminder – now Trailblazer – Evan Paul.
White Rock head coach Brien Gemmell wasn't pleased with his team's slow start. In between periods, he told his young men that “people talk about: ‘adversity builds character,’ and I said that adversity actually reveals character.”
The pep talk worked. Leroux scored again in the third period and teammate Wesley Rowley also added a brace.
Sept. 24 – Whalers v. Richmond Sockeyes
Eighteen hours later: same home team. Same rink. And a markedly different result. White Rock faced the undefeated Richmond Sockeyes.
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.
Goal of the year contender: Max Lyons
A few minutes in, Whaler Nathan Bran skated past the Richmond crease and creatively banked the puck off a Sockeye defenceman and past Richmond goalie Thomas Popa to tie the game at 1-1. It was Bran’s seventh of the season.
The early contender for White Rock’s goal of the year came off the stick of teammate Max Lyons. The 17-year-old put forth a remarkable effort when he broke up a pass at the Richmond blue line and streaked in alone. His clinical forehand-to-backhand deke went top shelf.
Bad blood, redux
But halfway through the middle frame, Richmond’s Nick Noren, Mattias Uyeda and Daniel Zhou notched three goals in four minutes that led to a 6-4 final.
Similar to previous contests between the two clubs, there was a parade to the penalty box and players ejected from both sides.
Tempers flared when Richmond defenceman Eithan Grishin didn’t appreciate Whaler Dylan Heer’s close checks. Grishin whirled and broke his stick on Heer as Whaler defenceman Dylan Travis jumped in to protect his teammate.
Grishin received a match penalty. On a separate play, Whaler captain Travis Smythe was also sent to the dressing room for a check from behind.
Whaler Derek Leroux scored twice on Sept. 23. | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns / White Rock Whalers.
Pod’s PP a concern
The Sockeyes went 2-for-5 on the man advantage; the Whalers went 0-for-6 the entire weekend.
At press time, Sept. 25, White Rock has the second-worst power play conversion rate in the seven-team Tom Shaw Conference, with two goals scored during 25 opportunities.
Regardless of the loss to the Sockeyes, there is excellent news for the Centennial faithful. Fan favourite Mark Paton, 20, has returned from Alberta and rejoined the Whalers.
“It’s great to have Mark back. A big part of this team last year and a big part of our team moving forward,” Gemmell said.
Paton won the PJHL Goaltender of the Year award last season. We look forward to seeing his on-ice heroics again in 2023-2024.
Welcome back, Mark!
POST GAME AUDIO with Coach Brien Gemmell and Gregory Sichitiu
Head coach Brien Gemmell, after the win against Pt. Coquitlam.
Interview with Coach Gemmell
Goalie Gregory Sichitiu on how coach Brien Gemmell first noticed him.
Interview with Goalie No. 29 Gregory Sichitiu
Whaler Kaz Yamazaki will always stick up for his teammates.