Kodiaks eliminate Flames in five games
The Ridge Meadows Flames junior B season came to an end with a 4-1 loss in Aldergrove on Wednesday night.
The Flames lost the best-of-seven series against the Aldergrove Kodiaks in the opening round of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League playoffs by margin of four games to one.
“It was by far the toughest loss I’ve ever had in the playoffs,” said head coach and GM Jamie Fiset.
Last year the Flames were also eliminated by the Kodiaks, but that team was satisfied just to make the playoffs. He said this year’s team had higher expectations of themselves.
“We knew we could compete with them, we just needed a few breaks.”
The Flames had chances to score – a shooter with an open net chipped the puck over the crossbar, and another failed to convert on a breakaway.
Aldergrove led 1-0 after the first period, then added two more goals late in the second. Ridge cut the lead to 3-1 in the third period on a goal by team captain Alex Smith, but that was as close as they got. With Wesley McLeod pulled from the crease to give Ridge an extra attacker, Aldergrove got salted away the series with an empty netter.
Aldergrove goaltender Mark Menicucci was a force in the series, and stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced Wednesday. For the five games he had a 4-1 record, 1.93 goals against average, and 0.928 save percentage.
“He played very well lest night. I won’t say he outplayed Wes, because Wes played very well, but he was in position and pucks hit him,” said Fiset.
In the Ridge net, McLeod faced 40 shots and stopped 37.
The Kodiaks also benefitted from a balanced attack, and of the 22 goals they scored in five games, there were 11 different players who tallied.
The Flames were led by Matt Bissett, with four goals and eight points in the five games. Second in scoring was Adam Bartsch with two goals and three points.
McLeod was 1-4 with a 3.40 goals against average and a 0.916 save percentage.
McLeod is one of numerous veterans who will graduate out of Junior hockey next season. Smith, Sean Pesut, Paul Piluso, Adam Bartsch, Connor Redmond and Reece Rivard are all finished.
“They are pretty key players moving on,” noted Fiset. “It gives some of the younger guys an opportunity to step up.”
There are Junior A and Western Hockey League teams inviting other players to their camps for next season, so Fiset expects some of his other most talented players will also be gone next year.
But they are recruiting new kids, and he doesn’t expect the squad to be completely gutted.
“Hopefully it will be more of a reload than a rebuild,” he said.
He plans to return for next season, and looks back on the successes of the season past.
“The biggest thing we wanted to achieve this year was to be competitive every night,” he said. “In 23 of our 44 games we got points, so that was definitely an improvement. We expect to win and be successful, so we’ve come a long way.”
He sees the team making a steady march to join the elite Junior B squads.
“You don’t panic, you just build your team. You can’t shortcut your way to success.”