Pilots win Game 3, close gap with Ice Hawks in PIJHL final

The Abbotsford Pilots got back in the series with a 3-2 road win in Game 3.

Pilots coach Jim Cowden watched his team claw their way back into the PIJHL final with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

Pilots coach Jim Cowden watched his team claw their way back into the PIJHL final with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

After a slow start in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League final against the Delta Ice Hawks, the Abbotsford Pilots got back in the series with a 3-2 road win in Game 3.

On Saturday at the Ladner Leisure Centre, the Pilots out-shot the Ice Hawks for the first time in the series (36-27), but found themselves down 2-1 after Ryan Cuthbert scored for Delta at 12:50 of the third.

But Abbotsford battled back to take the lead less than two minutes later, as rapid-fire goals by Kyle Star and Brad Parker lifted the Pilots to a pivotal triumph.

“I think this series was always up for grabs, it just takes us a little bit longer to figure things out and get going,” Pilots coach Jim Cowden said. “We’re like a locomotive – it starts slow, but by the five-mile mark, it’s going full-gear.”

In the series opener last Thursday at the Ladner Leisure Centre, the Pilots tied the score 2-2 on Riley Lamb’s power-play goal at 6:08 of the third period. But the Ice Hawks exploded for three goals in a span of 2:14, courtesy of Ryan Stewart, Aaron Merrick and Spencer Traher, en route to a 5-2 win.

On Friday at MSA Arena, the Ice Hawks never trailed, and won 4-2 while out-shooting the Pilots 38-23. Cody Fidgett scored twice for Delta, while Matt Genovese and Luke Venema replied for Abbotsford.

Game 4 is back in Abbotsford on Monday (8:30 p.m., MSA Arena).