A sweep of the Vancouver Chiefs – and a little help from the Cariboo Cougars – has pushed the Valley West Hawks into a three-way tie for first place in the BC Hockey Major Midget League (MML) standings.
Valley West topped the Chiefs 3-2 Saturday at the Langley Events Centre and 6-4 Sunday in Coquitlam, improving their record to 11-4-1 (win-loss-tie), the same record as the Vancouver Giants. The Giants lost one game and tied the other in Prince George against the Cougars, a result that left the Giants and Cougars with 23 points, the same total as the Hawks. The three co-leaders are three points up on the South Island Royals.
Valley West is striving for at least a second place finish, which would give them home ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“By virtue of tie breakers, we officially sit second behind the Giants,” noted Hawks head coach Jessie Leung, adding that “next week will be an important weekend for us. We play the Royals, who are nipping at our heels, and we have a chance to put some separation between us, as well as the Cougars, who now have their bye weekend.”
After 10 minutes of play Saturday, the Hawks seemed headed towards their fifth loss in seven games.
“Saturday was a weird game. Our first 10 minutes of the game were as bad as any I’ve seen us play all year,” said Leung. “The Chiefs had us on our heels and out-shot us 10-4. We also found ourselves in early penalty trouble being whistled for four first-period minors.”
Goalie Nic Tallarico was outstanding in the first period, keeping the Chiefs off the scoreboard while the Hawks went in front when Justyn Gurney tallied 12 minutes into the game. Josh Bruce added a shorthanded goal with 22 seconds left for a 2-0 Hawks lead after two periods.
The Chiefs struck for two goals late in the second period to tie the score 2-2 going into the final 20 minutes. Gurney got the winner with nine minutes remaining after taking a pass from Justin De Vos.
Special teams powered the Hawks to the win Sunday, as Valley West tallied five times with the man advantage and overcame a 4-2 deficit late in the game.
Christian Bosa of the Hawks netted the only goal of the first period, then the Chiefs pulled even at 1-1 after 40 minutes and went up 3-1 six minutes into the third period. Ilijah Colina got one back for Valley West before the Chiefs regained the two-goal advantage.
The home team took four minor penalties over the final seven minutes of play, and the Hawks took full advantage, scoring on each powerplay. Colina tallied his second off the game with six minutes to go, Bosa tied the game with three minutes remaining, and Ben Evanish scored winning and insurance goals over the final two minutes. Colina assisted on four goals, finishing the game with six points.
“You could feel the momentum swing our way,” said Leung. “You could see the other team become unhinged and deflated.”
– Evanish continues to lead the MML in goal scoring with 20 in 15 games played. He ranks third in scoring with 28 points, one back of Matt Kowalski of the Okanagan Rockets and Josh Latta of the Giants.
Luka Burzan of the Hawks is tied with Latta for the league-lead in assists with 20.