Special teams were the difference for the Abbotsford Pilots on Friday.
The Pilots killed off all six penalties they were faced with, including a momentum-turning, two-man disadvantage for a full two minutes.
Abbotsford faced that situation tied 1-1 in the first period, and answered back in the second period. Forward Brady Morton pounced on a loose puck in the second period to give Abbotsford a 2-1 lead and that proved to be the difference. The Pilots faced several more shorthanded situations, but goalie Jacob Crawford was strong between the pipes, stopping 33 of 34 shots for the win.
“Our special teams were outstanding tonight – especially the penalty kill,” said Pilots head coach Jim Cowden. “Our penalty killers [Philip] Gauthier, [Mateo] Toledo and [Joel] Balzer were outstanding on the kill for us tonight.”
Jackson Waniek of the Pilots opened the scoring at 4:34 of the first period, after connecting on a power play goal. The Pilots were out-shot 16-9 in the third period, but Cowden said the team didn’t sit back.
“We’re a pretty good defensive team,” he said. “We’ve got the best goals against and penalty killing and you never want to hold back in the situation, but you want to be responsible and that’s how we played.”
Cowden said it was a nice bounce-back game for Crawford, after he struggled a bit in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Langley Knights in Langley. The Pilots had a 2-1 lead after one, but the Knights scored two in the second to skate away with the win. Hayden Guilderson and Cole Methorst tallied for the Pilots in a losing cause.
Cowden said he’s making some minor tweaks to the roster, bringing in Waniek from Langley and forward Kevin Allan from the Grandview Bruins in recent weeks.
It was only the seventh loss of the season for the defending PJHL champion Wolf Pack, who are in first place in the Tom Shaw Conference.
The Pilots’ record improved to 14 wins, eight losses and one overtime loss after the pair of games.
They are in second place in the Harold Brittain Conference, but can make up some ground on the first-place Mission City Outlaws when Mission comes to the MSA Arena on Friday. Face-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Pilots also travel to Aldergrove to take on the Kodiaks tonight at 7:15 p.m. inside the Aldergrove Community Arena.