The late-season push for first by the Abbotsford Pilots came up a little short.
Abbotsford headed into Saturday’s game against the Mission City Outlaws with the opportunity to finish first in the Harold Brittain conference by beating their rivals on the road.
The second-half surge saw the Pilots lose only two games since December, making up ground on the lead that the Outlaws built early in the Pacific Junior Hockey League schedule.
But the comeback sputtered on Saturday, as the Pilots penalty kill failed them and they fell 5-2.
The two teams traded goals in the first period, with Abbotsford tying the game up twice after falling behind 1-0 and 2-1. Cole Methorst scored both goals for the Pilots.
Abbotsford unraveled in the second period, taking four penalties and allowing a pair of power play goals. The third period saw the Pilots get a number of power plays, including a pair of two-man advantages, but they failed to convert.
“Our special teams really killed us,” said Pilots head coach Jim Cowden. “They were undisciplined in the third and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Goalie Jacob Crawford made 39 saves in the loss, and finished the season with a record of 20 wins, 12 losses and one tie. Methorst was the team’s top scorer in the regular season, with 56 points in 42 games. Forward Jackson Waniek had a team-high 24 goals.
Friday’s home regular season finale saw the Pilots dispose of the Langley Knights 5-1. Abbotsford built to a 5-0 lead, and the Knights broke the shutout bid of Lucas Mills with six minutes to go. Hayden Guilderson, Alexander Methorst, Waniek, Erik Olson and Mateo Toledo scored for the Pilots.
Abbotsford held the Knights to just 19 shots, and converted on two of their seven power play opportunities.
The Pilots finished the season with a record of 29 wins, 11 losses, three overtime losses and one tie, good for third overall in the PJHL. Abbotsford opens the playoffs against the Aldergrove Kodiaks, the number-three-ranked team in the Brittain conference. The teams split their six games this season, with each winning three.
The playoffs opened for the Pilots on Tuesday at the MSA Arena, but results were not available at press time. Game two is in Aldergrove and Wednesday, and game four is on Friday at MSA Arena at 7:30 p.m.