Pilots, Icebreakers to clash in first round

If familiarity breeds contempt, the Abbotsford Pilots and Mission Icebreakers figure to grow tired of each other in short order.

Mico Dragutinovic (left) of the Mission Icebreakers and Travis Grewal of the Abbotsford Pilots duke it out on Friday at MSA Arena.

Mico Dragutinovic (left) of the Mission Icebreakers and Travis Grewal of the Abbotsford Pilots duke it out on Friday at MSA Arena.

If familiarity breeds contempt, the Abbotsford Pilots and Mission Icebreakers figure to get sick of each other in short order.

The two teams split a pair of weekend games to wrap up the Pacific International Junior Hockey League regular season, and they face each other in a best-of-seven playoff series that begins Tuesday.

The Pilots (26-14-6) finished atop the PIJHL’s Harold Brittain Conference, and on paper, they’re favoured. But head coach Jim Cowden believes that fourth-place Mission (18-23-5) is a dangerous foe.

“They’re a good team,” Cowden said. “They work extremely hard, and they’re well-rounded. They’re good defensively, and they’ve got great goaltending, so we’re going to have to work hard to get by them.”

On Friday at MSA Arena, Matthew Genovese’s power-play goal 14 seconds into overtime lifted Mission to a 4-3 victory that went a long way towards ensuring the Icebreakers would edge the Aldergrove Kodiaks for the division’s final playoff spot.

The Pilots have been a banged-up group down the stretch, but they’re getting healthy just in time. High-scoring forwards Riley Lamb and Kevin Lourens returned to the lineup for Sunday’s regular season finale at Mission, and Lamb notched two goals and an assist to spark Abbotsford to a 5-2 win.

Further reinforcements are expected for Tuesday’s playoff opener, as captain Brendan Nadolny makes his return from injury.

Cowden said Brad Anderson will start in net for the Pilots.

The schedule for the Pilots-Icebreakers series is as follows:

• Game 1: Tuesday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m. at MSA Arena

• Game 2: Thursday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m. at Mission Leisure Centre

• Game 3: Friday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. at MSA Arena

• Game 4: Sunday, Feb. 27, 3:30 p.m. at Mission Leisure Centre

• Game 5: Tuesday, March 1, 7 p.m. at MSA Arena

• Game 6: TBA

• Game 7: Friday, March 4, 7:30 p.m. at MSA Arena