Abbotsford Pilots goalie Aaron Oakley stones Marc Letourneau of the Delta Ice Hawks with a glove save during Friday’s season-opener at MSA Arena. Despite Oakley’s heroics

Goalie Oakley a bright spot as Pilots split on opening weekend

After the Abbotsford Pilots hoisted their banners to the rafters, the Delta Ice Hawks did their best to spoil the party.

After the Abbotsford Pilots hoisted their B.C. and Western Canadian championship banners to the rafters in a pre-game ceremony on Friday, the Delta Ice Hawks did their best to spoil the party.

The Ice Hawks beat the Pilots 3-1 in their regular season opener at MSA Arena, a game which re-ignited one of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League’s great rivalries.

Last season, the Ice Hawks beat the Pilots in a six-game series to claim the PIJHL championship, but Abbotsford bounced back to win the Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial crown and the Keystone Cup Western Canadian title.

“It’s always a battle,” Delta coach Dave McLellan noted with a grin. “I think the league did a good thing, scheduling the two teams that played in the final last year (to open the season). You obviously develop a rivalry when you play as many games as we did, and the battle that we had.”

On Friday, Delta got goals from Kristofer Melna, Anthony Brito and Alex Martin, while Mike Tebbutt replied for the Pilots.

Abbotsford coach Jim Cowden was pleased with the performance of goalie Aaron Oakley, who made 38 saves, and with his youthful blueline corps. But he said the Pilots’ forwards need to be better, particularly in their own zone.

“We did a lot of running around,” Cowden said. “Our D was good, but our forwards weren’t so good. There wasn’t enough urgency, and too many shots were getting through.”

The Pilots bounced back with a 4-2 road win over the Port Moody Panthers on Saturday, out-shooting the hosts 43-19. Brandon Daase, Chris Vinette, Dakota Schipper and Kyle Star scored the Abby goals, while Oakley was named first star of the game.

• The Pilots are back in action on Friday, as they host the Aldergrove Kodiaks (7:30 p.m., MSA Arena).

Joel Atkinson of the Pilots carries the puck up-ice as Delta’s Anthony Brito hustles to catch up. (John Morrow photo)

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