Pilots fall to Ice Hawks in PIJHL final, shift focus to provincials
The bad news, from the Abbotsford Pilots' perspective, is that they fell short in their quest for the Pacific International Junior Hockey League title.
The Delta Ice Hawks saw to that, edging the Pilots 4-3 on Friday to complete a 4-2 victory in the junior B league's championship series.
The good news, though, is that the Pilots are still in the running for a provincial title, by virtue of the fact they host the Cyclone Taylor Cup tournament at MSA Arena next week, April 12-15.
That they'll get another crack at their rivals from Delta doesn't hurt, either.
"We pushed them quite far," Pilots head coach Jim Cowden said, alluding to the fact that his team's losses in Game 5 and 6 were both by one goal. "I felt that if it wasn't for a couple breaks, we would have won the series. All it was, was a couple breaks."
On Friday in Abbotsford, the Ice Hawks built a 3-1 lead midway through the second period on goals by Kody Botterill, Alex Martin and Aaron Merrick, with Brett Kolins replying for the Pilots. After Merrick's goal at 7:49 of the middle frame, Cowden gave starting goalie Aaron Oakley the hook, replacing him with Riley Parker.
Brad Parker brought Abbotsford back in a hurry, though, scoring twice in a span of two minutes, 28 seconds to knot the score.
The Pilots thought they had the lead late in the second, when Adam Rossi put the puck past Ice Hawks goalie Glenn Ferguson. But the goal was waved off, and Rossi was assessed a minor penalty because the chinstrap on his helmet had come undone.
That was a huge turning point for Delta, and Cody Smith scored the game-winner with 3:01 remaining in the third period.
"We just didn't get the breaks," reiterated Cowden, whose team out-shot Delta 40-32. "Even at the end, I don't know how the puck stayed out. We were all over them.
"Our guys battled back extremely hard."
The four-team Cyclone Taylor Cup event will also feature the Victoria Cougars and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. The Cougars won the Vancouver Island league title, while the Nitehawks are the Kootenay league champs.
The tourney winner advances to the Keystone Cup, the Western Canadian junior B championship event, April 19-22 in Saskatoon.
"Victoria and Beaver Valley are both top teams in their divisions, and it's going to be great weekend of hockey," Cowden said.