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Sockeyes remarkable season ends with three straight losses
Coach Judd Lambert had left the dressing room, but his players sat silently. Their equipment was still on, their heads were low.
The Richmond Sockeyes suffered a devastating loss Monday in front of a packed crowd at Minoru Arenas, losing Game 7 in the the Pacific Junior Hockey League championship final—a playoff series they had led three games to one.
This season’s Sockeyes topped the 10-team league in regular season points with a roster packed with rookies, and at one point had won 33 of 34 games. Their remarkable season ended with a 5-1 loss to the Aldergrove Kodiaks.
After the game, Lambert still had a positive message for his team.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve had with a group in the six years I’ve coached,” he said outside the room.
That’s saying a lot, since Lambert coached a Keystone Cup championship team and carried another squad to the provincials.
Lambert knew just two of his players before the season. No one was recruited, no one signed. The team comprised those who showed up at camps and proved themselves.
“They should be proud of themselves for coming together as a team,” he said. “This team had a lot of really good rookies, and we’re going to have a lot of one and dones. Five or six guys already got multiple offers from the B.C. Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. We’re going to be brand new again next year.”
The Sockeyes got this far by beating the odds. Lambert told his players the recipe for a championship isn’t a team carried by young rookies.
“The norm is the older, experienced teams, and the Kodiaks had that,” he said. “I’d be very surprised if they don’t win the provincials. I’d also be surprised if they don’t win the Keystone.”
The Sockeyes quickly fell behind 2-0 in Monday’s game, against a team with the most potent offence in the regular season. After trailing 4-0, Sockeyes forward Daniel Oakley put one past Kodiaks netminder Jordan Liem. But the Kodiaks answered less than a minute later, making the score 5-1 and shifting any remaining spirit from hometown fans to a few hundred Kodiak clappers in the stands.
After giving up five goals on 20 shots, Sockeyes goaltender Kootenay Alder was replaced by Kurt Russell. The backup faced little action. The Sockeyes pressed, outshooting Aldergrove 45-26, but finished with just a single goal.
A suspension to start the playoffs limited Alder’s time in the playoffs. Coach Lambert couldn’t say if that affected the outcome of a seven-game series the Sockeyes led.
“Their goalie was fantastic. Our goalie did all he could. I don’t know what role the suspension played. Nothing we can do about it now. We play with the cards that were dealt, and that’s what the cards were,” he said. “Kurt Russell was tremendous in the nine games that he had to play. Without his effort we wouldn’t be where we are right now. (But) everything that this team got or didn’t get this year was a result of the group effort.”
Playoffs started Feb. 20. Richmond swept its first two series against Grandview and North Vancouver, en route to the final round March 19.
In Game 1 Richmond outscored Aldergrove 7-1. Richmond also took the second game, winning 6-4, but Aldergrove came back with a 3-2 win. After a 4-3 Richmond win last Wednesday, the Sockeyes took a 3-1 command of the series. But Aldergrove won the next three, beating the Sockeyes 3-0 and 3-2 before Monday’s win.
The Kodiaks will now travel to Nelson to compete in the Cyclone Taylor Cup beginning April 9.