All things considered, the Abbotsford Pilots acquitted themselves quite well during their most adversity-laden stretch of the season.
With six players serving suspensions in the aftermath of a brawl-marred game on Dec. 14 vs. the Delta Ice Hawks, the local junior B hockey club managed to split their last two games of 2012 heading into the Christmas/New Year’s break.
The Pilots fell 4-1 to the Richmond Sockeyes on the road Thursday, but bounced back for a 1-0 victory over the North Delta Devils at MSA Arena on Friday.
Five Abbotsford regulars – Devon Allenby, Ryan Parmar, Luke Venema, Eric Wieking and goalie Aaron Oakley – were serving two-game suspensions, and sat out both nights. Ryan Hotner’s one-game ban was served Thursday, and he was back in the lineup against North Delta.
“I’m very, very happy,” said head coach Jim Cowden, who had just 14 skaters at his disposal – including a trio of affiliate players – on Thursday, and 15 on Friday. “We actually could have won both hockey games, so I’m proud of the guys. Our veterans really stepped up.
“Before this fiasco happened against Delta . . . we said we wanted to get four of a possible six points against a tough schedule, with Delta, Richmond and North Delta. We accomplished our four points without half our team, so give the guys credit.”
On Thursday in Richmond, Colton Cowden gave the Pilots a 1-0 lead at 5:41 of the first period, but the Sockeyes scored four unanswered goals to reclaim first place overall in the Pacific Junior Hockey League from the Pilots.
Pilots goalie Zachary Station, subbing for the suspended Oakley, came up with a 29-save shutout on Friday vs. North Delta, and Mike Tebbutt’s goal midway through the second period stood up as the game-winner.
“He played very well both nights,” Cowden said of Station, who was obtained from the Port Moody Panthers in an early-season trade. “He’s very capable, and I knew that.”
• The Pilots (21-7-2, 44 points) are off until Friday, Jan. 4, when they host the Aldergrove Kodiaks (7:30 p.m., MSA Arena).