The Abbotsford Pilots’ 8-1 triumph over the Delta Ice Hawks on Friday was their most impressive win of the season to date, but it won’t be remembered as such.
Late-game shenanigans overshadowed the actual hockey, as the simmering rivalry between the two junior B clubs boiled over at MSA Arena.
Fifty-one seconds after a power play goal by Pilots forward Dakota Schipper made it 8-1 in the third period, a line brawl broke out. Both goalies got involved, three Delta players left the bench to join the melee, and 37 games’ worth of suspensions were handed down in the aftermath.
Additionally, Pilots coach Jim Cowden was twice struck by pucks fired into the Abbotsford bench by Delta players – he said one hit him in the leg, and another got him on the side of the head. He suffered a mild concussion and a gash which required four staples to close.
“They (the Ice Hawks) should be absolutely embarrassed, their whole organization, as far as I’m concerned,” Cowden told The News.
“If I would have known they were going to be like this, I would have given them the two points.”
Friday’s game was billed as a marquee match-up – whichever team emerged victorious would leapfrog the Richmond Sockeyes for first place overall in the Pacific Junior Hockey League standings.
But the contest was only close for one period. After Schipper and Delta’s Matthew Dawson exchanged goals in the early going, Abbotsford exploded for seven unanswered.
Michael Tebbutt (2), Adam Rossi (2), Devon Allenby and Brandon Daase found the net, and Schipper capped the scoring barrage with his second of the game at 11:03 of the third period. Abbotsford’s last four goals of the game came on the power play.
But shortly after Schipper’s second tally, the brawl ensued. According to Cowden, his players tried to avoid scrapping by “turtling,” but ultimately had to defend themselves.
Once order had been restored, 12 game misconducts were doled out – five to Pilots players and seven to the Ice Hawks. Delta’s damage included a match penalty to Ryan Rana; additional minors to Brent Chreptyk, Grange Gordon and David Rudin for leaving the bench; and a penalty to goalie Scott Lapp for crossing the centre red line to get involved.
On Monday, Rana was suspended nine games by BC Hockey, which handles all match and gross misconduct penalties. Additional Delta suspensions from the PJHL included six games for Chreptyk; three apiece to Gordon and Lapp; two each to Rudin and Jeremy Gossard; and one to Anthony Brito.
Five Pilots – Allenby, Ryan Parmar, Luke Venema, Eric Wieking and goalie Aaron Oakley – were banned two games apiece for being multi-fight participants in the last 10 minutes of the game. Ryan Hotner was suspended one game after picking up a game misconduct at the end of regulation.
Delta general manager Peter Zerbinos pointed out that the brawl occurred while his team was shorthanded, and that after one Ice Hawks player was escorted off, Chreptyk hopped over the boards because his teammates were outnumbered. Gordon and Rudin followed.
“Obviously you don’t want to see the players jumping over the boards and getting involved in that, so that player has been talked to,” Zerbinos said.
“The officiating, I think, struggled in that game, but ultimately we have to be responsible for our players.”
The Pilots (20-6-2, 42 points) are now one point up on Richmond (20-6-1, 41 points) and two up on Delta (19-7-2, 40 points) for first place overall in the PJHL, but the Sockeyes do have one game in hand.
Cowden said the late-game violence “kind of spoiled everything,” though, and he was convinced the pucks that hit him were aimed intentionally by the Ice Hawks.
“They fired it five or six times (at the bench) after we got up 8-1,” he said. “Absolutely no need for it – it’s disgusting.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of class. We’re a classy organization, and it showed. We didn’t want any part of it, and I’m very, very proud of our guys, how they conducted themselves.”
Zerbinos didn’t see the incident where Cowden was hit in the head – he was downstairs trying to get the ejected players into the dressing room. But having talked to the referee supervisor and his own team, he denied it was deliberate.
“The puck was shot from the other side of the ice,” he said. “It wasn’t like he was right there and decided to fire it into their bench.
“You never want to see anybody get hurt, especially a coach with no equipment on. I’ve been hit in the face with a puck by my own team when we were penalty killing.
“There’s enough blame to go around in that game and it’s something you don’t want to see and hopefully we won’t see again.”
The Pilots-Ice Hawks rivalry goes back many years, and the two teams engaged in several memorable games last season. Delta defeated Abbotsford in the PJHL final, but the Pilots regrouped to beat the Ice Hawks en route to a provincial Cyclone Taylor Cup championship, and they went on to win the Western Canadian title.
– with files from Adrian MacNair