Poised to climb into third place in the BC Hockey Major Midget League, the Valley West Hawks came up four minutes short.
A late goal by the Okanagan Rockets gave the visitors a 6-5 win over the Hawks Sunday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre, and split of their weekend series. Valley West won 4-1 Saturday at the Langley Sportsplex, but remained in fifth place and in the middle of a four-team pack fighting for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“It was a pretty evenly played weekend by both teams,” said Hawks head coach Jessie Leung. “Although we would have preferred the sweep, a split is probably what could have been expected.”
The Hawks are 18-10-6 (won-lost-tied) and have 42 points with six games remaining. They trail the third-place Rockets by two points, are one back of the Vancouver Chiefs, and one up on the Vancouver Canadians.
Valley West will play twice against the Chiefs next weekend, facing off in Coquitlam Saturday evening and again Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Langley Events Centre.
“Another big weekend is on the horizon for us,” said Leung. “We again have the opportunity to jump up in the standings.”
Saturday against Okanagan, the Rockets scored the first goal of the weekend, a powerplay tally that allowed them to take a 1-0 lead into the dressing room after one period.
But Valley West dominated the final 40 minutes. Ben Evanish of White Rock and South Surrey’s Daniel Watson put the home team ahead 2-1 after two periods, then Langley forward Christian Bosa added a pair of insurance goals in the final frame.
James Malm of Langley assisted on all four goals.
“Saturday was a physical affair, and a home game away from home,” said Leung. “The Sportsplex rink has a pretty short neutral zone, which is an advantage is given that we practice there once a week.”
Okanagan got a quick start again in Sunday’s contest, taking a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. Daniel Chifan of Cloverdale opened the scoring, but three goals in an eight-minute span had the Rockets in front after 20 minutes.
Okanagan had a 5-2 lead by the midway point of the game, with Semiahmoo Minor Hockey’s Logan Webber netting the second Valley West goal.
White Rock’s Matt Barberis, who assisted on the first two Valley West scores, started a rally with 10 minutes to go in the second period. His goal cut the difference to 5-3 after two periods.
Evanish tallied with 11 minutes left in the game, then Surrey’s Jeffrey Stewart tied the score with just five minutes left, with Barberis earning his third assist of the afternoon.
Okanagan escaped with the win when Marcus Mitchell notched the winning goal with just under four minutes to go.
“The slightly larger ice surface gave the Rockets a bit more space to let their forwards get to top speed,” said Leung. “We could have played better on Sunday, limited our turnovers, but at the end of the day their best players made big league plays that helped them edge us out.”