Somehow after losing their first three games in the month of December - including a loss to division rival Delta Ice Hawks and a should-have-won against the Ridge Meadows Flames - the Squamish Wolf Pack found their groove again to pull themselves within four points of fourth place and a playoff berth.
The first win was a rematch against the Ridge Meadows Flames on Dec. 11, which the Wolf Pack won by a 4-2 margin. The Pack out shot the Flames 33-20 and scored three unanswered goals in the second period to take the win and two points. Jake Charles led the team with a goal and an assist, with other goals from Luke Kasteel, Michael Mackie-Kwist and Kiefer McNaughton. Whistler's Josh Schaubroeck racked up an assist.
Tensions bubbled over in the third period as the game turned into a slugfest. All told 20 penalties were handed out, including four game misconduct penalties.
That shortened the bench slightly for Saturday's match-up against the Richmond Sockeyes, the current national Junior B champions and the top team in the league again this year. Despite the Sockeyes' obvious strengths the Wolf Pack has played some of its best hockey against Richmond this season, although it always ended with a loss - until last weekend, that is.
Against long odds the Wolf Pack downed the Sockeyes 3-1, despite being outshot 35 to 28. The Wolf Pack scored one goal in every period, keeping Richmond off the board in the second and third periods. Brandon Pfeil scored two of the goals and assisted on the third short-handed goal by Michael Mackie-Kwist. Despite all the points the first star went to Wolf Pack goalie Scott Ismond for stopping 34 of 35 shots.
The Wolf Pack's next game is a home stand against the Mission Icebreakers at Brennan Park Arena. The puck drops at 7:15 p.m. The Wolf Pack lost their last game against the Icebreakers in November in a shootout.
Kokanee Valley Race Series underway today
The first race of the Kokanee Valley Race Series takes place today, Thursday, Dec. 17, on Gandy Dancer/Ross's Gold on Blackcomb. The format is giant slalom, and day of race registration is available until 9:45 a.m. in the Rendezvous Lodge, and possibly at the start line as well.
The series continues in the New Year with a different race every Thursday through the month of January leading up to the Olympic break. The series will resume in March, giving racers another opportunity to train for the Peak to Valley Race.
For more information on the Kokanee Valley Race Series visit www.whistlerblackcomb.com and check out the events calendar.
Ski club in action this weekend
The Whistler Mountain Ski Club is hosting an event this weekend to kick off the race season for kids from K1 (aged 11 and 12) to K2 to J1 (aged 15 and 16).
The event is a zone competition, which means clubs from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island can take part. It is sponsored by Teck Cominco and the Vancouver Sun.
It's rare that three different age groups get to compete on the same days in the same event given the sheer number of skiers that typically turn out for racers. However, combining age categories can be motivating for younger skiers, giving them a chance to stand out.
On Saturday the athletes will race two giant slalom runs with each counting separately for medals. On Sunday there will be two one-run slalom races.
The events take place on Whistler Mountain on the Upper Dave Murray.