The Abbotsford Pilots won their final regular season game Friday, defeating the Langley Knights 5-3.
However, with a win by Mission City Saturday evening, the Outlaws took the third seed in the Harold Brittain Conference, forcing the Pilots to face the top-ranked Aldergrove Kodiaks in the first round of the Pacific Junior Hockey League playoffs, beginning Tuesday.
Abbotsford (21-21-0-2) was just 9-15-0 since New Year’s day and won just five of their final 16 games, dropping from first-place in the conference down to the final playoff position, with only the Ridge Meadows Flames finishing on the outside.
However, Friday’s victory showed head coach Jim Cowden some good things. The team got goal scoring from a variety of places, and also had some solid goaltending from Jacob Crawford, who made 28 saves. That was his first win since Jan. 10.
“We were all hoping for that and he played well,” said Cowden. “So going in, he’ll be our guy.”
Abby tallies came from Cole Methorst, Devan Vander Wyk, Colton Cowden, Kolten Grieve and affiliate player Brett Clayton.
“We were kind of forced to look at him because we’re either last or second last in goals-for,” said Cowden. “Goals-against is good, we’re top-three or -four there, but we needed to figure out a way to generate our secondary scoring. Bringing him in makes it a little more balanced between the two lines.”
Bradley King also was put in the line-up, picking up an assist in his first game after two years away from the club.
After a scoreless first period, the Knights opened the scoring 94 seconds into the second. Hayden Smer sent the puck down low where Levi De Waal tipped the puck over to Dylan McCann at the side of the net, who backhanded a shot past Crawford.
About two minutes later the Pilots got on the board. Grieve skated to the top of the face-off circle and unleashed a wrist shot with Colton Cowden screening, giving him 16 goals – and a team-leading 46 points – on the season.
The visiting Knights scored shorthanded at 10:55 when Carson Rose blew past two defenders and beat Crawford five-hole to give them the lead.
However, on that same power play the Pilots again knotted it up.
Defenceman Arshdeep Shergill chased the puck in the corner and fed it to Mitch Plevy, who centred it for Clayton in the slot. The affiliate player’s hard wrist shot beat Nickolas Trenciansky glove side for the Abbotsford native’s first PJHL goal in his fourth junior game.
Abbotsford took its first lead of the game at 12:52, when Trent Huitema’s shot from the blue line was redirected by Vander Wyk.
Just 11 second later the game was again even, when Alex Kalau deked to his backhand and scored five-hole.
“We played well,” said Cowden. “We went up and then we battled back. They tied it off the face-off but we continued to push forward. [The negatives] are simply things we can work on.”
The final goal of the period went to Abbotsford, when Colton Cowden stepped into a slap shot at 16:35, giving the home side a 4-3 lead heading into the second intermission.
The Pilots rounded-out the scoring at 5:05 of the third. Plevy drove to the net, and Methorst buried his rebound for his 10th of the year..
The best-of-seven playoff series begins with games Tuesday and Wednesday in Aldergrove. Both games start at 7:15 p.m.
Game 3 is Friday at MSA Arena and Game 4 goes Saturday at MSA Arena. Both games are a 7:30 p.m. start.
If necessary, Game 5 takes place Wednesday, Feb. 25, at Aldergrove, starting at 7:15 p.m. and Game 6 goes Friday, Feb. 27 at Abbotsford at 7:30 p.m.
Game 7 (TBD) will be played at Aldergrove at 7:30 p.m.