After sweeping the Mission City Outlaws in the first round of the playoffs, the Abbotsford Pilots are steeling themselves for a stiffer test in the second.
The Pilots, the top-seeded team in the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s Harold Brittain Conference, take on the second-seeded Aldergrove Kodiaks in a semifinal series which begins tonight (Tuesday, 7 p.m., MSA Arena).
Abbotsford out-distanced Aldergrove by nine points during the regular season, but Pilots coach Jim Cowden believes the final standings are somewhat deceiving. Both teams posted identical 18-4 records in the second half of the campaign.
“They had a slower start, that’s the only difference,” Cowden pointed out. “It’ll be a tough match-up. They’re a very good team – they skate very well, and they have a good back end, good goaltending and great forwards.
“This is going to be a battle, every game is going to be tough. It should be a long series.”
The Pilots were off last week as they waited for the Kodiaks to finish off the Ridge Meadows Flames in their first-round series, which they did in five games.
In the meantime, the PJHL announced its regular season award winners, and Abby goalie Aaron Oakley was named the league MVP. He backstopped the stingiest defensive team in the league, pacing the PJHL with 23 wins and posting a 2.01 goals against average.
In an unusual twist, Oakley did not win the top goalie award – it went to Alexander Ahnert of the Delta Ice Hawks, much to Cowden’s chagrin. Ahnert led the league in goals against average at 1.80, but Cowden pointed out that he only played 17 games to Oakley’s 33.
“I can’t understand it,” the Pilots bench boss groused.
The Pilots-Kodiaks series schedule is as follows:
• Game 1 – Tuesday, March 5, 7 p.m., MSA Arena
• Game 2 – Wednesday, March 6, 7:15 p.m., Aldergrove Community Arena
• Game 3 – Friday, March 8, 7:30 p.m., MSA Arena
• Game 4 – Date and time TBA, Aldergrove Community Arena
• *Game 5 – Tuesday, March 12, 7 p.m., MSA Arena
• *Game 6 – Wednesday, March 13, 7:15 p.m., Aldergrove Community Arena
• *Game 7 – Friday, March 15, 7:30 p.m., MSA Arena