The Abbotsford Pilots had another weekend split, dropping a 5-3 decision to the North Vancouver Wolf Pack Friday and edging the Ridge Meadows Flames 4-3 in overtime Saturday.
The North Vancouver game was full of energy, since the Pilots were energized to host the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s top team – the Wolf Pack have 60 points compared to the Pilots’ 38. However, Abbotsford was lacking motivation for most of Saturday’s game at MSA Arena – the Flames are last in the Harold Brittain Conference.
“For the most part, Saturday was a terrible game for us,” said Abbotsford head coach Jim Cowden. “We kind of played down to their level, with no energy compared to Friday night.”
Devan Vander Wyk opened up the scoring just 20 seconds into the game on a bit of a sloppy play, recording his seventh of the season.
Just 31 seconds into the second period Dale Howell scored on a rebound, knotting the game.
The Flames took the lead at 2:02 when Joel Balzer bobbled a chip in and Jonathin Weloy moved past him and whistled a shot past Pilots’ goalie Alexander Kong’s glove.
But, just 36 seconds later Alex Methorst tied the game at 2-2 when he cut to the net and backhanded a shot short side for his fourth of the campaign.
However, with less than three minutes remaining in the period, Bradley Crompton buried the a rebound from a point shot to give the visitors a 3-2 lead heading into the intermission.
“[After the second period] we talked about getting everyone going,” said Cowden. “Being down by only one goal, the way we played, we said ‘It’s up to you guys to battle back and get on the forecheck and get on their D.”
Another move that Cowden made was tinkering with his first line, and it paid dividends.
“I tweaked the top line a bit, moving Kolten Grieve to the middle, along with Brady Lawlor and Cole Methorst,” said the team’s head coach.
At the 8:39 mark of the third Balzer made up for his second-period gaff, putting a hard, low shot to the net through a screen. Lawlor tipped it home for the tying goal.
That set the stage for Lawlor’s overtime winner. Kolten Grieve rushed into the zone and dropped for Lawlor, who snapped it past Jeremy Tamelin at the 42-second mark of the overtime period.
“I thought we were prepared, but going from the game Friday night to a game like this, they just thought it was going to be a cake walk. They played a good game, give them credit. They battled us hard.”
Friday’s tilt with first-place North Vancouver was full of intensity.
The Wolf Pack jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of first-period goals. First Scott Munro beat Crawford with a blast from the point at 6:51. Then Daniel Delbianco pushed a puck past Crawford on the power play at 10:13.
“Jacob, last night, I’m sure he’d like the first two back,” said Cowden.
Kellan Lavallee got the Pilots on the board at 13:16, hammering a power-play shot from the top of the circle past Trevor Withers with Colton Cowden screening.
Mateo Toledo tied the game at 13:58 of the second. Withers got a good piece of Toledo`s wristshot from the top of the circle, but it still floated to the back of the net for Toledo’s fourth of the season.
The Wolf Pack regained the lead before the end of the period, when Brodyn Nielsen took a pass on the fly and beat Crawford with a backhand deke.
Abbotsford didn’t quit though, tying the game at 8:04 of the third, What began as a dump around the net turned into a goal, with the Pilots captain Lawlor getting the final touch.
This was North Vancouver’s game to lose though, and they scored twice in 87 seconds to clinch the win. First Mitchell Crisanti – he of 57 points this season – scored on an odd man rush – after being denied on a breakaway moments earlier – and then he scored a power play goal at 16:42, potting a ricochet off the end boards for his second.
Now the third-place Pilots try to regroup, looking ahead to Thursday, Jan. 23 when they visit the Langley Knights, before returning home Friday to host the last-place Port Moody Panthers, with less than a month remaining in the PJHL regular season.
“We’ve got lots to work on,” said Cowden. “Look at our discipline, like last night, look at our intensity, we have to work on our systems, but we’ll be prepared. We’ve got a pretty good group.”