Despite being shorthanded last weekend, the Abbotsford Pilots did some things well and picked up two of four points.
The Pacific Junior Hockey League squad had four players – and their head coach – suspended from Friday night’s tilt with the Grandview Steelers due to the multiple-fight event versus the Delta Ice Hawks the prior weekend.
With their decimated lineup, the host Pilots fell behind 4-0 and eventually lost 5-2.
Saturday they paid a visit to the last-place Port Moody Panthers, still missing three suspended players, but were able to reel-off a 5-1 victory.
“It was one of those games that we should win,” said Pilots head coach Jim Cowden. “We did pretty well, not giving them anything. They only had 20 shots, and not dangerous shots. But we were still missing three forwards and a defenceman.
Abbotsford (17-14-0-2) sits in third place in the Harold Brittain Conference and will now gear-up for the stretch run, with just over a month remaining in the regular season.
“We’re pushing forward,” said Cowden. “We’ve got five weeks to get ready for the playoffs. We’ll be there, and [Saturday] night was a good indication of doing things right, and just continue to practice and do little things right.”
Friday the Pilots were dealt the first four penalties of the game, and the Steelers scored on three of them.
“We just ran into some penalty trouble,” said Cowden. “Some of them were marginal at best. Other than that, in the third period we came out hard and they had good goaltending. We were down guys and that was no fault of [the Steelers]. Our guys should know better.”
Kolten Grieve and Brady Lawlor did score in the third period, cutting the deficit to 4-2, but the visitors added an empty net goal.
Though the Pilots were short five players, including Devon Becker, who is still out with injury, the club decided not to dress any affiliate players to fill in the roster spots, instead deciding to give lesser lights an opportunity to shine.
“We thought about [dressing an AP] but decided to use it to give guys who usually don’t play too much some extra ice time,” said Cowden. “It gives guys a chance to play into their roles and work on what they have to work on. The only chance to really correct things is in the game. And they did well and got some confidence.”
Grieve and Lawlor also scored Saturday, giving the Pilots a 2-0 lead on the Panthers. Grieve picked up his second of the game in the middle frame while on the power play, and Kellan Lavallee also scored. Hayden Guilderson rounded-out the scoring.
“Sometimes those ‘should-win’ games are not what they should be,” said Cowden, referring to the Pilots 7-1 loss to the Panthers in October. “But most times, yes, you can use them to your advantage and [build momentum].”
The Pilots host the North Vancouver Wolf Pack this Friday and the Ridge Meadows Flames pay a visit to the MSA Arena on Saturday evening.