Battered and bruised though they may be, the Abbotsford Pilots took care of business at home on the weekend.
The local junior B hockey club didn’t have a full complement of skaters available for either of their games at MSA Arena, but they rode huge third-period explosions to a pair a victories – 6-3 over the Mission Icebreakers on Friday, and 5-3 over the Ridge Meadows Flames on Saturday.
The Pilots (16-7-1-0) were heavily favoured in both games – Mission and Ridge Meadows have just seven wins between them this season, less than half of Abbotsford’s total.
But both nights, the outcome was in doubt until the final frame. On Friday, the Icebreakers took a 3-2 lead into the third, but the Pilots rallied for four goals courtesy of Chris Vinette (2), Brad Parker and Adam Rossi.
On Saturday, Abbotsford held a slim 2-1 lead over the Flames, before breaking the game open on goals from Vinette, Parker and Brady Lawlor early in the third.
“Those teams can beat anyone on a given night if you take them too lightly,” Pilots coach Jim Cowden said. “We didn’t play as well as we could have (for the first two periods). We just didn’t have the urgency to push back. Then in both third periods, we were all over them.”
Part of the Pilots’ early struggles could be attributed to a relentless run of injuries. On Saturday, for instance, they were missing Kevin Lourens (broken jaw), Brandon Daase (knee), Brett Kolins (shoulder), Terrence Limbert (flu) and Luke Venema (flu). Additionally, Ryan Stewart was unavailable due to work commitments, and Riley Lamb departed after suffering a concussion in the first period.
“When it rains, it pours,” Cowden noted. “After Christmas, it’ll be like Christmas all over again, because we’ll get everybody back.
“We’ll just have to survive and see what happens in the new year.”
With 33 points, the Pilots are just one point back of the Aldergrove Kodiaks for first place in the Harold Brittain Conference. They have a chance to overtake the Kodiaks on Wednesday, when they face off at Aldergrove Community Arena (7:15 p.m. start).
On Saturday, the Pilots visit the Port Moody Black Panthers (Port Moody Arena, 7:45 p.m.), and their next home game is Friday, Dec. 23 against Aldergrove (MSA Arena, 7:30 p.m.).