The final day of the round robin at the Midget Tier 2 provincials Tuesday proved pivotal for North Delta as they defeated the Kelowna Midget Rockets 5-3.
After bowing 6-3 to Saanich in their opening match, North Delta showed steady improvement, beating Williams Lake 6-4 before roasting the previously undefeated Rockets 5-3 Tuesday morning at the Cominco Arena.
“That’s huge,” said North Delta coach Chad McGuire. “For our guys, that was a must win. We lost our first one, then got the win yesterday, today was a must win, and now tonight is a must win, so it’s just one step closer.”
North Delta played Greater Trail in the late game Tuesday night, and a win or tie would move them into the playoffs with a 3-1 record, but a Trail victory would put the Smoke Eaters into Wednesday’s playoff round as second-seed after tying the Saanich Braves on Monday night 1-1.
A loss to Kelowna would have likely quashed any North Delta hopes at advancing but the team was stellar defensively in the opening 40 minutes, taking a 2-0 lead into a wild third period that saw six goals scored.
“They (Kelowna) are a good hockey team all the way through, they have a big roster too, lots of bodies, lots of legs,” said McGuire. “So consistently throughout the game, they are going to keep coming at you. We just kind of found the holes where we did, we got some guys that can go, and we told our guys when you get the opportunity you have to take it, and capitalize on the opportunities.”
Kevin Allen did just that, netting the winning goal at 8:11 of the third period on a setup from Erik Olson to make it 4-1 North Delta.
The effort displayed a much improved Delta team from Sunday when it fell to Saanich 6-3.
“It’s a different rink here,” said McGuire. “So we came out a bit flat (against Saanich), didn’t really know what was going on, chased pucks around, so they got up on us, and then we just couldn’t get back into the game.”
Sheldon Kumar opened the scoring midway through the first, and Sean Olson would give Delta a 2-0 lead at 6:26 of the second period.
The Rocket’s Wyatt Head would cut the lead to one just over two minutes into the third period, but Jacob Apostoliuk, Allen, and Adrian Kumar would score three goals over a three-minute span to give North Delta a 5-1 lead. Kelowna would notch a power-play goal at 3:49 and draw within two 24 seconds later, but that was as close as they would get.
In the other early game Tuesday, the Williams Lake Timberwolves sent Saanich packing in a surprising 3-2 victory. At 1-1-1, Saanich was still in the playoff hunt, and with a Trail win or North Delta tie Tuesday night, would have left them tied for second, but the T-wolves took care of that scenario with their first victory of the tournament.
Down 2-1 heading into the third, Williams Lake forward Daine Dubois scored on a power-play to tie it at 2, and after the Braves’ were handed a slashing penalty, the Timberwolves would make them pay as Cody Swan sniped the winner at 7:56.
The top two teams in Pool B faced each other for first and second seed in the Tuesday afternoon tilt, with New Westminster scoring four times in the opening period to cruise to a 6-2 victory.
New Westminster went 3-0 to take top spot in Pool B, while Smithers finished with a 2-1 record.
In Monday’s late games New Westminister pummeled Castlegar 9-1, while Saanich and the Smoke Eaters skated to a 1-1 draw. After a scoreless first period, Ryan Neil put the Smoke Eaters up 1-0 early in the second period, but Braves forward Elliot MacIssac drew Saanich even with five minutes remaining in the middle frame.
With a win over North Delta, Greater Trail would advance and play number-one seed New Westminster in the B-Pool at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. However, a North Delta victory would make them top seed, and face Smithers at 11 a.m. Wednesday.