After a shaky start to the 2012/13 Pacific Junior Hockey League season, the Flames have found their way of late, and have the wins to prove it.
The Flames won their third game in a row Friday night, downing the league’s top team, the Richmond Sockeyes, 4-2 at home. The win comes on the heels of a 3-2 win over the Harold Brittain Conference-leading Abbotsford Pilots on Oct. 12.
Despite a 1-4 start to the season, the Flames have lost just once in their past five games, and have pulled into second place in the conference.
Flames coach Jamie Fiset said the key to the team’s turnaround has been all about attitude.
“We’ve begun to recognize the difference between a fixed mindset, versus one focussed on growth,” he explains. “In the past, if we did bad, it was because we were bad. We weren’t focussed on the positives, and what we could do to make ourselves better.”
This year, the team mentality has been to focus on improvement.
“Even when we were losing [this season] we knew we’re better than this, and we knew we’re growing as a team,” said Fiset. “And now we’re starting to see that pay off.”
The Flames scored three power play goals en route to their fourth win of the season Friday night against the Sockeyes.
Fiset, himself, wasn’t behind the bench, after a last-minute family emergency called him away.
He praised the work of assistant coaches Nick Bruns, Shawn Peters, and Tyler Klassen, for leading the team in his absence.
“Our whole coaching staff really stepped up and did a great job of sealing the win,” said Fiset. “It was satisfying as a coach to know that… everybody was well-prepared and executed the game plan perfectly.”
Flames’ leading scorer Matthew Bissett got the home team on the board early with a power play goal six and a half minutes into the third period. Paul Piluso had another power play marker two minutes later to put the Flames ahead by two.
Bissett had his second goal of the night, this time at even-strength, early in the second period to make the score 3-0.
The Sockeyes would get on the board three and a half minutes later, however, as Sam Chichak score shorthanded.
Adam Bartsch restored the Flames’ three-goal lead with a power play goal scored with 17 seconds left in the middle frame.
The Sockeyes poured on the pressure in the third period, firing 22 shots on Flames goalie Wesley McLeod. McLeod was equal to the task, however, as he turned aside all but one of the shots he faced.
The Flames gave up four power play opportunities to Richmond in the third period, but it took a five-on-three advantage for the visitors to finally put a puck by McLeod at 13:19.
That wasn’t enough for the Sockeyes to catch the Flames, and even with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker for the final 45 seconds of play, Richmond couldn’t complete their comeback attempt.
The loss was just the second for the Sockeyes in 13 games this season.
Bissett was named the game’s first star for his three-point performance.
“Matt did everything that we needed him to,” said Fiset. “He has really bought in to developing his game, from just a one-dimensional scorer to a great two-way player.”
Sean Pesut had two assists, while Michael Nolan, Travis Oddy, and Bradley Wardner had an assist each.
Marco Ballarin was named the game’s second star, while McLeod, who had 41 saves, was named third star.
The Flames have a tough week ahead with games against the Delta Ice Hawks (11-2-1) and the North Delta Devils (6-7-0), who are riding a four-game win streak.
Fiset said his team is excited to compete against the best teams in the league.
“It’s another big challenge… but this is a group with something to prove,” he said.
• The Ridge Meadows Flames next home game is this Friday against the North Delta Devils at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge. Game time is 7:30 p.m.