The battle for first place in the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s Harold Brittain conference needed extra time to be decided on Friday.
It took double overtime for the Mission City Outlaws to defeat the Abbotsford Pilots 7-6, and create a tiny sliver of separation atop the standings.
The goals came early and often from both teams, as Pilots captain Joel Balzer opened the scoring 53 seconds into action, but Mission tied the game just over a minute later. Abbotsford forward Mateo Toledo took the lead back at 3:29 of the first period, only for the Outlaws to answer again just 17 seconds later. Mission added a late goal to escape the first period with a 3-2 lead.
After the Pilots fell behind 4-2, Dryden Michaud and Mitchell Plevy scored in the second period to draw even. Plevy scored again to open the third , but Mission potted a pair to grab the lead back. Francis Bamford tied the game at six and sent the game to overtime, and nothing was solved in four-on-four portion of the extra frame. The teams then played three-on-three, with Mission scoring to win the game.
Pilots head coach Jim Cowden said he needs better goaltending from Jacob Crawford, who made 35 saves in the loss.
“I thought we were the quicker team out there and if it wasn’t for our goaltending today it would have been no contest,” he said. “Crawford didn’t have a great night, but it was fine because the guys battled back for him. It felt like we had to come from behind almost the whole game.”
Mission players stormed the ice and celebrated with game-winning goal scorer Bryce Pisiak after the win. Cowden said there still is a lot of hockey left in the PJHL.
“They looked like they had just won the Stanley Cup,” he joked. “At the end of the day we’re one point behind them and have an easier schedule the rest of the way.”
With only five games left in the season, Cowden said he doesn’t really care who the Pilots match up with in round one.
“As long as we’re playing well it doesn’t matter whether we come in first, second, third, or fourth,” he said. “We were probably about 20 points behind Mission a few months ago, and a lot of people wrote us off, but we’ve caught up to them.”
He said he’d actually like to play the Outlaws in the first round – a match-up that will not happen.
“We match up well against them. They’ve only ever beat us in overtime and we beat them the other three times we played.”
Abbotsford sits three points behind the Outlaws for first place, but have one game in hand.
The Pilots travel to Langley to play the Knights on Thursday, and then host the Port Moody Panthers on Friday. Face-off is set for the MSA Arena at 7:30 p.m.