Pilots strengthen grip on first place

Pilots defenceman Cole Regier lays the lumber to a Squamish Wolf Pack opponent in front of the net on Friday.

Pilots defenceman Cole Regier lays the lumber to a Squamish Wolf Pack opponent in front of the net on Friday.

An epic goaltenders’ duel highlighted a solid weekend for the Abbotsford Pilots, during which they claimed three of a possible four points.

The Pilots cruised to a 6-3 victory over the last-place Squamish Wolf Pack on Friday at MSA Arena, then wrapped up the weekend with a 1-0 overtime loss to the Grandview Steelers on the road Sunday.

Pilots goalie Brad Anderson and his Steelers counterpart Norbert Biszczak matched each other save for save until the 3:15 mark of the extra session, when Zach Hillhouse blasted a point shot through a screen that eluded Anderson.

“We played very well, and we deserved a better fate,” Pilots coach Jim Cowden said, pointing out that his team out-shot the Steelers 27-15 during regulation, including an 11-1 edge in the third period. “But that’s life.”

Jarrett Martin and Kevin Lourens were the offensive heroes in Friday’s win against Squamish, scoring two goals apiece.

The Pilots (19-11-5) maintained their lead atop the Pacific International Junior Hockey League’s Harold Brittain Conference. They’re two points ahead of the Port Moody Black Panthers with a game in hand.

The Pilots and Panthers face off on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at MSA Arena, and Cowden termed it a “huge” game for his team.

“This is the last time we play them this season,” Cowden noted. “They’re a good club, and we’re going to have to work hard.”

The Pilots elected to stand pat at the PIJHL trade deadline last week. Cowden had some opportunities to add veteran players to the roster, but was reluctant to break up his youthful core.

“It doesn’t matter what young guy we’re talking about – they’ve all improved tremendously,” Cowden said.