Devils down Delta, await a playoff opponent

After defeating the Delta Ice Hawks in Ladner Tuesday, the North Delta Devils have a pretty good idea about where they will finish.

But who they will face in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League playoffs in two weeks time is still up in the air.

The Devils doubled the Ice Hawks 8-4, moving five points clear of Delta and the Hope Ice Breakers in the league standings, with their two rivals each having just three games remaining on their schedule.

Two points back of the fifth place Port Moody Black Panthers with two games left on their schedule, North Delta is all but assured of a sixth place finish. But who will finish third and face-off against the Devils in the first round of the playoffs is still up in the air.

The Grandview Steelers are tied with the Ridge Meadows Flames for third, with the Steelers having four games left to three for Ridge Meadows.

Regardless, the Devils have achieved their main goal – avoiding the league’s top two teams, which are running away from the pack.

“We don’t want to play Abbotsford (Pilots) or Richmond (Sockeyes) in the first round, not that I worry about them, but it’s common sense,” said Devils head coach Ron Johnson 10 days ago. “Let someone else beat up on them in the first round.

“If we play the way we can, I won’t worry about who we play.”

The Sockeyes and Pilots, each more than 20 points ahead of their nearest rival, have combined to win 10 of 12 games against North Delta in head-to-head competition this season.

In eight starts against Grandview and six against the Flames, however, the Devils have posted three wins against each squad.

They improved to 18-25-3 (won-loss-overtime loss) on the season with the win in Delta, their fourth victory in their past six contests.

Goals by Jean Merchan and Cameron Abney late in the second period, and Kyle Brown and Jamie Fowler in the first six minutes of the third, broke a 3-3 tie and power North Delta to the win.

Brown had a hat-trick on the night, with Merchan finishing with two goals and an assist. Shane McNamara had the eighth goal, while Shane Goutsis was the night’s top point-getter, assisting on four of the goals.

The Devils close out the regular season with Saturday night home games at the Sungod Arena at 8:30 p.m. Abbotsford visits tomorrow with the Sockeyes providing the opposition a week later.

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