Pilots soar to PIJHL final

A third-period explosion on Monday evening powered the Abbotsford Pilots past the Aldergrove Kodiaks and into the PIJHL final.

Pilots forward Justin Dorey chases down a loose puck in the slot against the Aldergrove Kodiaks.

Pilots forward Justin Dorey chases down a loose puck in the slot against the Aldergrove Kodiaks.

A third-period explosion on Monday evening powered the Abbotsford Pilots past the Aldergrove Kodiaks and into the Pacific International Junior Hockey League final.

The Pilots trailed the Kodiaks 4-2 through 40 minutes at MSA Arena, but went on a three-goal binge in a two-minute span early in the final frame en route to a 5-4 victory. Justin Dorey scored twice in quick succession, and Brad Parker’s goal at the 6:02 mark stood up as the game-winner.

“Between periods the guys were talking among themselves how we needed to make sure we didn’t go back there (to Aldergrove for Game 7),” head coach Jim Cowden said. “Then they stepped up in the third period and took it to them.”

The Pilots’ third-period dominance was comprehensive – they out-shot the Kodiaks 12-2 in the frame, part of a 45-19 edge for the game.

Abbotsford’s opponent in the final will be the Delta Ice Hawks, who upset the league-leading Richmond Sockeyes in the other semifinal series.

Cowden said he wasn’t surprised to see the Ice Hawks take down the Sockeyes, in light of the impressive size and speed they boast on the roster.

“They’re big, strong and quick – a very good team,” Cowden said of Delta. “We’ve just got to play our system and dictate things.”

In one sense, there’s less than usual on the line in the PIJHL final, since both teams already know they’ll move on to the Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship tournament. The Pilots are in by virtue of the fact they’re hosting the event April 12-15, and since they’re in the final, the Ice Hawks automatically advance as the PIJHL representative.

But with a league title up for grabs, Cowden said he’ll have no problem motivating his troops vs. Delta.

“We’ve come this far,” he noted. “You can’t say to the guys, ‘This doesn’t matter.’ It’s got bragging rights to it.”

The PIJHL championship series begins on Thursday at Ladner Leisure Centre, before shifting back to MSA Arena on Friday. Game 3 is set for Saturday back in Ladner. All three games start at 7:30 p.m.

The balance of the series schedule is as follows:

Game 4: Monday, March 26, 7 p.m., MSA Arena

*Game 5: Tuesday, March 27, 7:30 p.m., Ladner Leisure Centre

*Game 6: Friday, March 30, 7:30 p.m., MSA Arena

*Game 7: Saturday, March 31, 7:30 p.m., Ladner Leisure Centre

*if necessary