The Pilots couldn’t solve Ridge Meadows Flames goalie Paul Tucek, and it cost them their season.
Abbotsford fell 5-1 to the Flames on home ice on Friday, a loss that ended their best-of-seven series with Ridge Meadows in five games (4-1).
Pilots coach Jim Cowden said his team had chances but just couldn’t slip enough past Tucek.
“We ran into a hot goalie,” Cowden said following the game. “We had our chances. We fired 41 shots at him in game four, but even at point blank we missed.”
Cowden pointed to game one as a turning point in the series. The Pilots were up 5-1 on home ice heading into the third period, but Tucek shut the door after coming on in relief midway through the second period. Ridge Meadows came back to win that game 6-5 in overtime.
Tucek was stellar in every game of the series, allowing just six goals in five appearances.
He made 40 saves in the series, clinching the game-five win on Friday, and his save percentage for the series was an incredible .965.
The Pilots also played the first two games of the series without starting goalie Jacob Crawford, who was unavailable to play.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” Cowden added. “The hockey gods weren’t smiling on us.”
Friday’s game saw the Flames score in the first period, and the game remained 1-0 heading into the third. Ridge Meadows made it 3-0 in the middle of the third, but Abbotsford roared back when Kolby Steen scored on a shorthanded breakaway goal.
Moments later it appeared the Pilots had scored again, but the referee ruled the goal had been gloved in, and it was disallowed. The Flames added two more goals to make it a 5-1 final.
Game four saw the Flames put a stranglehold on the series with a 3-1 win in Maple Ridge on Feb. 22. Cobin Genge scored the lone goal for the Pilots in the loss.
Noah Wiebe was the Pilots’ top playoff performer, scoring five goals in the series. Steen and Carter Shannon each scored four points.
The game marked the end to the junior hockey careers of Steen, Crawford, captain Philip Gauthier, Mitchell Plevy and defenders Issaih Piers, Kellan Lavallee and Nicholas Leeder.
Cowden said the departing pieces – particularly Plevy, Lavallee, Gauthier and Crawford, who have been Pilots for several years – will be missed.
“I’ve really seen those guys grow,” he said.
The Flames now move on to the Harold Brittain conference final, where they will take on the Aldergrove Kodiaks.
The Tom Shaw conference final features the Delta Ice Hawks battling the Grandview Steelers.
— Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) February 25, 2017