Sockeyes open season Thursday with plenty of firepower

White Rock Whalers visit Minoru Arenas at 7 p.m.

It has all the makings of being busy season for the scorekeepers and goal judges at Minoru Arenas.

The Richmond Sockeyes will open their Pacific Junior Hockey League schedule on Thursday (7 p.m.) against the White Rock Whalers with a line-up featuring plenty of firepower.

The Sockeyes already looked to be in good shape up front with a group of forwards  that included returning veterans Noah Kelly, Nicholas Wilson, Michael Araki-Young and Religh Anderson. It got even better when the club welcomed back the reigning league rookie-of-the-year and its 2018-19 top goal scorer from their respective junior “A” tryouts.

Marcus Pantazis produced 52 points in 43 games last season, including 22 goals. He was released from the Merritt Centennials and had an opportunity to still play junior “A” in Saskatchewan but chose to focus on school and return to Richmond.

A 27-goal freshman campaign for 18-year-old Craig Schouten attracted plenty interest from B.C. Hockey League teams. The Surrey native wanted to keep his options close to home and was among the late cuts of the Chilliwack Chiefs.

“We are definitely in a better situation (with both of them),” understated Sockeyes head coach Brett Reusch. “Craig has that quick release and a shot that fools a lot of goalies because he doesn’t need that big release.

“I definitely think he is good enough for the BCHL and there a couple of Island teams that wanted to sign him right off the bat but he has a lot of commitments at home so he put all his eggs in one basket with Chilliwack and they are known for recruiting every where.”

After dropping a pair of pre-season game to the White Rock Whalers that featured line-ups loaded with rookies, the Sockeyes showed what they are capable of at full strength with an impressive road sweep of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League powerhouse Campbell River Storm over the Labour Day Weekend.

The club also received some good news at the back end with the return of local product Gabriel Sueesenbach-Fu from a tryout with Lloydminster. He joins Thomas Von Schoenberg as the team’s only two returning blueliners but Reusch likes the potential of his rookies that include 17-year-old Richmond products Chad Lore and Vincent Thrum.

“We are young at the back end but they all are good skaters, have good vision and see the ice well,” continued Reusch. I’m excited to see what they can do.”

A year ago, the Sockeyes road veteran goaltender Jeremy Kelleway from start to finish. It will be a different approach this season with three goalies battling for playing time, including returning back-up Maurcio Soriano-McKinnon. He is joined by South Surrey natives Jacob Stone,19, and Marcus Cumberworth, 17. Stone actually played overseas last season in a Swedish U20 League.

“Jacob has played well in the pre-season and I think is getting better every night. But it’s going to be like a three-headed monster for now and we will see who comes out on top,” added Reusch.

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