Kodiaks, Sockeyes set to clash in PJHL finals
And then there were two.
The Aldergrove Kodiaks and the Richmond Sockeyes — the top two teams in the Pacific Junior Hockey League regular season — will square off to determine which team will represent the league at the Cyclone Taylor Cup, the junior B provincial championships.
The series is a rematch of last year's championship final, which was a Sockeyes sweep.
The Kodiaks beat the Abbotsford Pilots 7-3 in game five of the best-of-seven series on March 12 at the Aldergrove Arena, winning the series four games to one.
The Sockeyes used a five-goal third period in game four to complete their sweep over the North Vancouver Wolf Pack, winning 8-6.
"I am excited," said Kodiaks coach Brad Rihela.
"This should be fun. It is going to be fast hockey and it should be a hell of a series."
Richmond (34-5-3-2, 73 points) had the better regular season record over Aldergrove (34-6-2-2, 72 points) and is a perfect 8-0 in the post-season. The Kodiaks are 8-1.
The teams played four times during the regular season, with three of the games decided by one goal while the other was a tie game.
Aldergrove won the first and last meetings, while the second contest was a tie and the third game was a Richmond victory.
"We are both very similar teams and play an uptempo style," Rihela said.
"We are going to have to make the most of our chances and play well defensively."
Aldergrove had the more potent offence during the regular season, scoring a league-best 217 goals in 44 games, while the Sockeyes countered as the stingiest unit, allowing 98 goals during the season. The teams were also one-two in goal differential as the Kodiaks finished +99 while Richmond was +98.
Spencer McHaffie is the leading scorer for the Kodiaks in the playoffs with eight goals and 12 points while Richmond is led by Ayden MacDonald's six goals and 12 points.
MacDonald is a rookie from the Langley Minor Hockey Association.
In goal, Aldergrove's Jordan Liem is tops among all goalies in the post-season with both a 1.94 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Richmond's Kurt Russell is second in both categories at 2.11 and .920, respectively and both goalies have one shutout.
The Sockeyes have home-ice advantage for the championship series, but it will begin at the Aldergrove Arena on March 19.
Games two and three will be at Richmond's Minoru Arena on March 20 and 23 while game four is back in Aldergrove on March 26.