The North Van Wolf Pack have spoken a record-breaking 40-win season into existence.
On Thursday the Pack topped the Surrey Knights 7-1 at the North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex to become the first ever Pacific Junior Hockey League team to win 40 games in a season. North Van’s record now stands at a mind-boggling 40-2-0-1 with one game left in the regular season. The win total and North Van’s 81 total points are both PJHL records despite the fact that the season used to be four games longer.
What’s even wilder about the feat is that Wolf Pack head coach and general manager Matt Samson set it as the team’s goal before the season started.
“That’s a lot of wins, but I think as a coach I’ve got to set our expectations high,” Samson told the North Shore News back in September, raising the idea of winning 40 games in a 44-game season. “That’s what we’re looking to do.”
After scoring the 40th win Samson admitted that making that prediction before the season put some pressure on himself and the team to perform at unheard of levels, but he was confident in the players he had in place going into the season.
“I truly believed we could do it,” he said, adding that there were some weighty moments along the way as the Wolf Pack, as all teams do, dealt with the ups and downs of injuries and puck luck and the other uncontrollable elements that go into a hockey season. “It almost felt like a release when we finally got it.”
The record-setting season included a 27-game win streak that started Oct. 19 and lasted until this week when the Langley Trappers beat the Pack 3-2 Wednesday night in Langley. North Van bounced back one night later to score the 40th win in Surrey.
With the regular season record set, the PJHL playoffs now loom, but Samson said he and the Wolf Pack will take proper pride in what they’ve already accomplished this year.
“It’s a milestone accomplishment, and no matter what happens from now on, this will live on,” he said about reaching the 40-win mark.
North Van has one more regular season game left, a Saturday night home title against the Aldergrove Kodiaks starting at 7 p.m at Harry Jerome Arena. The Wolf Pack will then face the White Rock Whalers in a best-of-seven series to open the playoffs. White Rock is currently fourth in the PJHL’s Tom Show Conference with a record of 23-18-0-2 with one game left. The Whalers are one of three teams to score points off of the Wolf Pack, picking up a 5-4 overtime win Oct. 14 in North Van. The Wolf Pack won the other three meetings between the two teams by a combined score of 19-3.
The regular season ride was a satisfying one for the Wolf Pack, but the team is now ready to take the next step, said Samson.
“Our focus is getting right into playoff mode and getting prepared to play a White Rock team that is one of only three teams that beat us this year,” he said. “I know that their coaching staff is going to do a good job preparing them. “They’re not going to want to go up and down the ice with us, that’s just how it is. They’re going to want to frustrate us, they’re going to clog the neutral zone, they’re going to want to get every puck in deep and fore check, or maybe sit back. It’s not going to be an up-and-down game. We’re going to have to be patient and take what they give us.”
The series starts Wednesday in White Rock before coming back to North Van for games two and three. Home games for the Wolf Pack confirmed so far at Harry Jerome Arena are Game 2 scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m.; Game 3 Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.; and, if necessary, Game 5 Saturday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.