Pilots clinch first

Splitting a pair of weekend home games was enough for the Abbotsford Pilots to lock up first place in their conference.

Rudi Thorsteinson of the Richmond Sockeyes unleashes a backhander against Abbotsford Pilots goalie Cole Chreptyk.

Rudi Thorsteinson of the Richmond Sockeyes unleashes a backhander against Abbotsford Pilots goalie Cole Chreptyk.

Splitting a pair of weekend home games was enough for the Abbotsford Pilots to lock up first place in their conference.

The local junior B club clinched top spot in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League’s Harold Brittain Conference after a 5-1 loss to the Richmond Sockeyes on Friday and a 2-1 shootout victory over the Aldergrove Kodiaks on Saturday at MSA Arena.

As for the identity of their first-round playoff opponent, the Pilots will have to wait until the PIJHL regular season finishes up this weekend. The Ridge Meadows Flames, Mission Icebreakers and Aldergrove Kodiaks are still jockeying for third through fifth place in the Brittain Conference standings.

Pilots head coach Jim Cowden said he doesn’t have a preference about who his team faces.

“It’s going to be tough, whoever we play,” he said. “You have to play good teams sooner or later.”

The Sockeyes are first overall in the PIJHL, and they laid a beating on a Pilots squad that was missing seven regulars – Kevin Lourens, Riley Lamb, Daniel Amesbury, Cole Regier, Travis Grewal, Justin Lachance and Brad Anderson – due to various bumps and bruises on Friday. Cowden expects those players to be available for the playoffs.

On Saturday, Adam Rossi, Brad Parker and Christopher Vinette scored in the shootout to lift the Pilots to victory over the Kodiaks.

The Pilots’ final regular season home game is Friday against the Mission Icebreakers (7:30 p.m., MSA Arena).