Ice Hawks push Pilots to the brink in PIJHL final

Abbotsford Pilots goalie Aaron Oakley turned in a heroic performance in Game 5, but the Delta Ice Hawks prevailed 3-2 in overtime.

Brett Kolins of the Abbotsford Pilots chases down Delta’s Aaron Merrick during Game 4 on Tuesday.

Brett Kolins of the Abbotsford Pilots chases down Delta’s Aaron Merrick during Game 4 on Tuesday.

Abbotsford Pilots goalie Aaron Oakley turned in a heroic performance in Game 5 of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League finals, but the Delta Ice Hawks prevailed 3-2 in overtime.

Oakley turned aside 52 of the first 54 shots he faced on Tuesday, but the 55th of the night, off the stick of Delta’s Anthony Brito at 7:32 of the extra session, got past him.

Brito took a pass in the slot from Cody Larsen and unleashed a one-timer. Oakley got a piece of it, but not enough to stop the puck from trickling over the goal line.

The win gave the Ice Hawks a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven PIJHL final series. Game 6 goes at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Abbotsford’s MSA Arena.

The Pilots were coming off an OT win over their own – 4-3 in Game 4 – but the Ice Hawks out-shot the Pilots 55-23 on Tuesday. Abbotsford head coach Jim Cowden didn’t feel the flow of the game was as lopsided as that, though.

“A lot of those shots were from the outside,” he said. “But our goalie played very well.”

The Pilots took a 2-1 lead into the third period, on goals by Justin Dorey and Kevin Lourens. But at 7:16 of the third, Abby forward Luke Venema was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for kneeing, and Delta’s John Proctor scored his second of the game on the ensuing power play.

Cowden was sour about the call on Venema.

“The game before that, their guy kneed our guy, and they got two minutes,” he asserted. “It was basically the same thing, but we got five minutes. The consistency just isn’t there.”

Game 7, if necessary, would be Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ladner Leisure Centre. Whatever happens, both the Pilots and Ice Hawks are assured of advancing to the Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship tournament, which runs April 12-15 at MSA Arena.