Pilots sweep weekend games on home ice

Pilots forward Joel Atkinson (15) deflects a shot on net against goalie Scott Lapp and the Delta Ice Hawks on Friday at MSA Arena. - John Morrow
Pilots forward Joel Atkinson (15) deflects a shot on net against goalie Scott Lapp and the Delta Ice Hawks on Friday at MSA Arena.
— image credit: John Morrow

Over the last two months of 2013, consistency utterly eluded the Abbotsford Pilots.

The early returns in 2014 have been more promising, though – the local junior B hockey team swept a pair of weekend games at MSA Arena, marking their first back-to-back wins since Nov. 1-2.

"It's huge," Pilots coach Jim Cowden enthused, "because we've battled inconsistency and we were banged up a little bit. We just had to work hard and believe in what we've got."

On Friday, the Pilots scored a 7-4 win over the Delta Ice Hawks, their longtime rivals, with the line of Brady Lawlor, Francis Bamford and Jared Virtanen leading the way. The trio combined for eight points, including three-point outings for Bamford (one goal, two assists) and Lawlor (three assists). Defenceman Eric Wieking (two goals) and forward Jarrett Martin (one goal, two assists) also had big nights.

On Saturday, the Pilots had to rally twice to beat the Ridge Meadows Flames 5-4. After the Flames built a 2-0 advantage, Abbotsford got goals from Lawlor, Wieking and Ryan Parmar to take their first lead of the contest. Ridge Meadows surged ahead once again with a pair of goals, but the Pilots finished strong with markers from Braeden Monk and Clayton Lake in the latter half of the third period.

The Pilots' nadir came in mid-December, when they dropped four of five games. The biggest difference in their performance last weekend, Cowden said, was a willingness on the part of the forwards to aggressively take the puck to the net for higher-percentage shots.

"A lot of times, we weren't playing that bad, but we weren't driving to the net," he analyzed. "Goalies were seeing everything."

The Pilots (19-9-4, 42 points) hold a comfortable grasp on second place in the Pacific Junior Hockey League's Harold Brittain Conference, and they host the first-place Aldergrove Kodiaks (24-5-3, 51 points) on Friday at MSA Arena (7:30 p.m. start).

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