With two months of the 2023-24 PJHL season now behind us, there are some juggernauts taking shape in Ridge Meadows, Delta and Richmond with the latter two looking like they’ll slug it out for the Tom Shaw Conference crown.
A few individual scorers have raced up the scoring table, bringing their teams along for the ride. Max Fowle continues to post eye-popping save percentage figures for a Mission City team that is starting to heat up.
Here’s a look at some other trends to note as we get into mid-November:
Pack on the Hunt: The North Van Wolf Pack put together a 7-2 record in October and have moved up to third in the Tom Shaw Conference. After a wild 10-5 loss to White Rock on Oct. 8, the Pack has tightened things up and gotten some unreal goaltending performances from Zoltan Bencsik and Brayden Burrows. Benscik made 45 stops in an Oct. 14 home win over Langley and outdid that with 55 saves in a Nov. 4 defeat of Delta, just the third loss in regulation this season for the Ice Hawks. Burrows was in the midst of a brilliant start against Delta Nov. 7, stopping all 37 shots that had come his way when he needed to leave the game with some dehydration. Benscik spelled him but Delta was able to take advantage of him coming in cold and pulled out the win.
Also key for North Van is the PJHL’s new leading scorer, JJ Pickell. The home-grown North Vancouver native started slowly with two assists over his first four games but since then has been lighting it up to the tune of 36 points in 15 games, including 11 multi-point outings.
On a Mission – The Mission City Outlaws have claimed victory in five of their last six and have three-straight wins to start November. David Stepputat has been a huge addition since joining the Outlaws from Ridge Meadows as he has 4-1-5 in seven games. The Pitt Meadows product scored the shootout winner in a 2-1 triumph over Langley to begin November and followed that with the game-winner late in regulation in a 3-2 home win over Surrey. Stepputat assisted on the decisive marker Thursday night in a 6-1 win over Surrey. The Outlaws will try to keep the good times rolling in back-to-back road games this weekend at Port Moody and Port Coquitlam.
Flames Goalies Smokin’ – Matthew Candusso and Vaughn Kaliel have combined to go 13-1 for the Ridge Meadows Flames since Sept. 27. Candusso catches right and Kaliel left so their similar stats and mirror images in net have made Ridge Meadows tough to beat this season. Both netminders have two shutouts over that time span as well. Not surprisingly, the Flames have allowed a league-low 39 goals against in 20 games.
Steelers Troubles on Specials – A cursory glance at the PJHL special teams will tell you the Grandview Steelers are doing a pretty good job on the man advantage (21 per cent) and on the PK (84 per cent) but they’ve gotten burned while on the power play more times than they’d care to admit. Opposition teams have struck 11 times on 76 opportunities while Grandview has been a man up. Granted, Ridge Meadows got two empty-net goals shorthanded in a 6-2 result on Oct. 13 but North Van’s Corson Penman notched two shorties on his own in a 5-2 Wolf Pack road win Oct. 29. Grandview has not allowed a shorthanded goal against since the calendar flipped to November.