The Abbotsford Pilots now have their backs against the wall after losing twice this weekend.
The Pilots lost Game 3 Friday 4-2, followed by a 3-2 overtime loss Saturday to the Aldergrove Kodiaks.
The Kodiaks now lead the best-of-seven Pacific Junior Hockey League playoff series 3-1, with Game 5 going Wednesday night at the Aldergrove Recreation Centre.
After earning a split in Aldergrove, the Pilots failed to take advantage of home ice, allowing the visitors to put a strangle hold of the series. However, it wasn’t without their best effort. The Pilots outshot the Kodiaks 90-72 on the weekend.
“We’ve been the best team in the series, except that 10-minute stretch in Game 2 in Aldergrove,” said head coach Jim Cowden. “We should really be up 3-1. But we are the ones who have our backs against the wall, so we just need to go out and keep playing our game.”
Friday the Pilots opened the scoring with Lucian Serban taking advantage of a misplay between the netminder and defenceman, popping it into the unguarded cage at 12:58.
The Kodiaks tied the game two minutes later on the power play and then with 31 seconds to go in the first Aldergrove took the lead. After a failed clearing attempt, Aaron Markin carried the puck in and roofed it on Jacob Crawford.
After Brandon Dolby gave the visitors a 3-1 lead, Kolten Grieve got the Pilots back to within one goal at 12:07 of the third. Kellan Lavallee chipped it up to Brady Lawlor, who rushed in and slid the puck over to Grieve at the left side of the net for an easy tap in.
However, Aldergrove added an empty netter to seal the victory.
The defence corps clearly had trouble dealing with the Aldergrove forwards.
“Yeah, they struggled a bit,” said Cowden of his veteran defenders.
Nolan Riebalkin was one of the best defencemen in the lineup, especially Friday. He likely would not have even been playing had Devon Becker not been injured in Game 2 by a hit from behind. Becker remains day-to-day with an upper body injury.
Saturday was the first time that Abbotsford didn’t score first in the series. Dolby opened the scoring with three minutes to go in the first. Wyatt Versluis’ point shot deflected off some bodies, right to Dolby at the side of the net.
Mateo Toledo tied the game with a nice shot, just under the bar, with 62 seconds remaining in the second period.
At 5:13 of the third Aldergrove regained the lead, with Markin picking up PJHL-leading fifth goal – and ninth point.
Abbotsford was filled with life with a little more than two minutes to go in the third when Lawlor tied the game at 2. Grieve centred the puck to the team captain, who roofed it past Ben Giesbrecht.
“We gave the puck away in front of our net to go down 2-1, but we rallied to get the tying goal with a couple minutes left,” said Cowden.
In the extra frame Eric Callegari took a roughing minor but the Pilots failed to score on the power play.
Then, Riebalkin was whistled for a boarding penalty, giving the top-ranked Aldergrove power play a chance to win the game.
It was with that man advantage that the Kodiaks scored to take a 3-1 series lead. Evan Cusmano got the goal, with Callegari drawing the assist.
In a do-or-die situation, the Pilots visit the Kodiaks for Game 5.