Slowly but surely the Abbotsford Pilots are becoming a team built for a playoff run.
And with just six games remaining, the timing couldn’t be better.
The Pilots won twice in four days, losing just once, in Pacific Junior Hockey League action.
After dropping a 4-3 decision in Langley on Thursday, the Pilots won 2-1 in overtime at home over Port Moody and edged Grandview 2-1 Sunday evening to improve to 20-16-0-2, good for second in the Harold Brittain Conference.
The Pilots got defenceman Devon Becker back for the weekend, and the Langley native scored twice in his return Thursday night.
“It’s really important to have Becker back,” said Pilots coach Jim Cowden. “He played pretty well against Langley, where we had a 3-1 lead and let it slip away. Playing back-to-back games after six or seven weeks off, he didn’t play well on Friday. But Sunday against Grandview he made a nice, nice pass on Colton Cowden’s winning goal – not many people could make that pass.”
Also, Lucian Serban scored his first of the season, banging home a rebound at the side of the net. He was the last remaining forward on the team to finally tally a goal.
“It was huge for him,” said Cowden. “He’s had lots of opportunities. It was nice to see that go in because he’s been playing well. He’s improved a lot this year.”
Friday’s overtime win over the Panthers required two goals from team captain Brady Lawlor. Lawlor tied the game with less than six minutes remaining in regulation, and then scored at 3:58 of the second overtime period.
“The first goal was a nice pass from [Kellan] Lavallee in the slot and he one-timed it to tie it,” said Cowden. “In double overtime it was 3 on 3, so there was lots of open ice. He went down and took a nice shot, bar and in. You couldn’t blame the goalie on that one.”
The Panthers sit last in the PJHL, but pushed the Pilots Friday.
“Give the Panthers credit,” said Cowden. “They work extremely hard.”
Alexander Kong stopped 34 shots for the Pilots.
On Sunday Abbotsford made the trip down the Trans Canada Highway to the Burnaby Winter Club and managed to edge the Steelers.
Lawlor scored a shorthanded goal early in the third period but the Steelers tied it up. With less than five minutes remaining, Colton Cowden scored, and the Pilots held on for the win. Kong made 24 saves in the victory, his sixth of the season.
“They’re a good team, it was a great game,” said Cowden. “The shots were even, the power plays and penalty kill were even, both goaltenders were outstanding. We clogged everything up and they kind of clogged everything up. It was a playoff-type game and we got that one break and then as a team we put it away.”
Now the Pilots has just six games remaining in the PJHL regular season. Abbotsford next hosts the Aldergrove Kodiaks on Friday and then visit North Vancouver Saturday.
“If you look at Thursday, we learned a little bit from that, and the game Friday, we have way more talent but they have way more work ethic,” said Cowden. “So we took that into Sunday and worked hard and we’ve learned we need to move the puck quicker, support the puck, and work hard.”