First, the bad news: The Abbotsford Pilots are out of the Pacific Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The Aldergrove Kodiaks saw to that, beating the Pilots 7-3 at Aldergrove Community Arena on Wednesday to close out a 4-1 series victory in the PJHL semifinals.
Now, the good news: The Pilots’ season isn’t over. They’ve now got a month to rest, get healthy and prepare for the Keystone Cup – the Western Canadian junior B hockey championship tournament, which they’ll be hosting at Abbotsford Recreation Centre April 17-20.
That silver lining aside, Pilots coach Jim Cowden was none too pleased with the early playoff exit. He wasn’t a fan of his team’s work ethic on Wednesday, and speculated that having a guaranteed Keystone berth may have factored into that.
“When you already have that carrot, it’s harder to motivate,” he noted.
Discipline, or lack thereof, was a big part of the Pilots’ downfall in Game 5 vs. the Kodiaks. Abbotsford took a string of penalties midway through the first period – Kolten Grieve for tripping, Bradley Parker for head contact (five minutes and a game misconduct) and Royce Rossignol for slashing – which allowed Aldergrove to build a 4-0 lead on four power-play goals.
Abby rallied to get to within 4-2, but the Kodiaks pulled away late in the second period.
Jarrett Martin, Brady Lawlor and Grieve scored for the Pilots, while Spencer McHaffie and Elvis Jansons paced Aldergrove with two goals apiece.
The Kodiaks move on to meet the Richmond Sockeyes in the PJHL final, while the Pilots will take 10 days off before returning to practice. A big part of their prep will be acclimatizing themselves to the Olympic-sized ice surface at ARC – their cozier home rink, MSA Arena, is unavailable for the Keystone Cup because the ice will be removed to make way for box lacrosse.
“It’s been a long year, and we’ll let guys regroup a little bit,” Cowden said. “We’ll be in good shape.”