For about 90 seconds the Delta Ice Hawks looked like they were going to earn at least one precious point in their uphill climb to qualify for the Pacific Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Jordin Kojima’s power play goal with 3:01 remaining pulled the Hawks into a 4-4 tie with the league-leading North Vancouver Wolf Pack who came to Ladner on Tuesday night riding a 23-game win streak.
The jubilation at the Delta bench would be short lived, however.
A Ryan Xu tripping penalty followed less than a minute later, setting the stage for Lucas Barker to wire home his second of the night on the power play for a 5-4 win to improve the Wolf Pack’s record to a sizzling 35-1-0-1.
The result only confirmed what Hawks GM and head coach Steve Robinson thought before the game — his team will have to win its remaining five games to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in recent memory.
Delta (17-16-3-3) is only one point back of crossing over for the final spot in the Harold Brittain Conference. However, the Aldergrove Kodiaks (19-15-0-3) have two games in hand, including a home match-up with the 1-33-0-4 Surrey Knights. Third place Ridge Meadows (20-15-0-3) is three better than Delta with a game in hand.
White Rock (21-15-0-2) is four points clear in the Tom Shaw Conference and also has a game in hand with Surrey on its schedule.
“If we got a point tonight I honestly would have looked at that as gravy. At the end of the day we need to win five straight and even then it’s not mathematically a clincher. The fact is we get three direct games against the teams we are chasing and it’s going to take nothing short than running the table the rest of the way,” said Robinson.
“The way I look at it, they are all winnable games and we are healthy, so there is no reason we can’t do it but it’s easy to say that. At the end of the day you just got to go and do it.”
Robinson also knows the Wolf Pack might have been ripe for an upset.
They haven’t suffered a regulation loss since Sept. 26 and are 20 points clear of their nearest rival —waiting for the playoffs to start. It reminded him of his championship team two years ago that was also in a similar situation in the final weeks of the regulation season.
North Van certainly gave them enough chances. The Hawks failed to convert a pair of breakaways and also a two-man advantage for 71 seconds in the third period.
“We took the best team in the league to the last shift of the game so there was something there," added Robinsion. "But what I don’t like is guys coming to the bench when the power play goes sideways complaining about it, having pity parties. For me it is wasted energy.
“At the end of the day, when they are under pressure they go off script and wonder why it doesn’t work. And these guys can attest how many times I have slowed things down (at practice) doing walk thrus with them. It’s about 80 percent plays and making the right one. Not just trying to do one thing like a hero move.”