Pilots primed for playoffs, face rival Outlaws in first round

Dylan Cusmano of the Abbotsford Pilots (26) closes in on Port Moody Panthers forward Brennan Bifano during the Pilots
Dylan Cusmano of the Abbotsford Pilots (26) closes in on Port Moody Panthers forward Brennan Bifano during the Pilots' regular season finale on Friday.
— image credit: John Morrow

Heading into the playoffs, there's no hotter team in the Pacific Junior Hockey League than the Abbotsford Pilots.

The local junior B hockey club has won five games in a row, including a dominant 12-0 victory over the Port Moody Panthers in their regular season finale last Friday at MSA Arena, highlighted by Devon Allenby's five-point night (two goals, three assists).

But head coach Jim Cowden isn't taking anything for granted heading into the Pilots' first-round match-up with their local rival, the Mission City Outlaws.

"It's a new season – we all start from scratch," Cowden noted. "Anything can happen. It can change in a hurry if we don't play our systems and put on our work boots."

On paper, the Pilots are heavily favoured in this series. The Outlaws, who finished fourth in the PJHL's Harold Brittain Conference at 9-31-4, were second-last in the PJHL in goals scored (110) and goals against (221).

The Pilots (31-10-2), meanwhile, were tops in the league in both categories (199 goals for, 91 against), while winning the Brittain Conference handily and finishing just two points back of the Richmond Sockeyes for first overall in the PJHL. They also happen to be the defending provincial and Western Canadian champs.

But Cowden pointed out the Outlaws finished the regular season strong – they claimed five of a possible six points in their last three games, highlighted by a 3-2 overtime win vs. the Delta Ice Hawks, one of the league's top teams.

"They'll give us a good run if we don't come prepared," Cowden predicted. "They work hard, they've got a lot of speed and they have good goaltending. We'll have to work."

A complete schedule of the best-of-seven series is as follows:

Game 1 – Tuesday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m., MSA Arena

Game 2 – Thursday, Feb. 21, 7:15 p.m., Mission Leisure Centre

Game 3 – Friday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m., MSA Arena

Game 4 – Sunday, Feb. 24, 6:15 p.m., Mission Leisure Centre

*Game 5 – Tuesday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., MSA Arena

*Game 6 – Thursday, Feb. 28, 7:15 p.m., Mission Leisure Centre

*Game 7 – Friday, March 1, 7:30 p.m., MSA Arena

* = if necessary

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