Heading into the Abbotsford Pilots’ first-round playoff series vs. the Ridge Meadows Flames, head coach Jim Cowden insisted it wouldn’t be a cakewalk for his squad.
The Pacific Junior Hockey League standings suggested otherwise, as the Pilots (27-12-5, 59 points) had finished far ahead of the Flames (17-22-5, 39 points).
But Tuesday’s series opener was in line with Cowden’s prophecy, as Ridge Meadows pushed the local junior B squad to the limit at MSA Arena.
The Pilots needed a goal from Austin Edwards late in the third period to force overtime, and they salvaged a 4-3 victory on Kolten Grieve’s goal at 6:47 of the extra frame.
Wednesday’s Game 2 at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge was more indicative of the Pilots’ status as favourites – they rolled to a 6-2 win behind four-point nights from Braeden Monk (two goals, two assists) and Grieve (four assists), and singles from Brady Lawlor, Jared Virtanen, Joel Atkinson and Brad Parker.
“I just thought we capitalized a little bit on our chances, and we were more disciplined,” Cowden said.
The Pilots will look to complete a sweep of the best-of-seven set on Friday (7:30 p.m., MSA Arena) and Saturday (7:45 p.m., Planet Ice). Game 5, if necessary, would be Tuesday (7 p.m., MSA Arena).
“It’s still going to be a tough series,” Cowden asserted. “The shots are fairly equal, and they’ve had some great scoring chances. They work hard. You’ve got to win four games, and we’re only halfway there.”