Ridge Meadows Flames clinch PIJHL playoff berth
Just as the Vancouver Canucks dominated their opponents last weekend, so too did the Ridge Meadows Flames as they picked up two wins, outscoring their opposition 14-3 in the process. And much like Canucks, it was the Flames' top line leading the way.
Matthew Bissett, Danny Brandys and Sean Pesut looked unstoppable as the Flames beat the Mission Icebreakers 9-2 on Friday, before punishing the Port Moody Black Panthers 5-1 on Saturday.
The Flames top trio combined for 17 points in the two wins, with Bissett registering a whopping six goals.
"When those guys decide to start scoring, it's pretty hard to stop them," said Flames head coach Jamie Fiset. "Much like the Canucks, our top guys need to play like our top guys if we're going to be successful."
The top line's production comes despite the fact the trio have had their ice time cut in order to spread playing time more evenly among the team's four lines.
"We've changed our ice time management to get everyone involved in the game early," said Fiset. "That sets the tone and makes them hungrier. They only had six shifts in the first period [against Mission], and they scored on three of them, so it seems to be working."
Thanks to the two wins, the Flames have clinched the fourth and final playoff berth in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League's Harold Brittain Conference, as they now find themselves six points ahead of Mission with two games remaining in the regular season.
However, it was Mission who opened the scoring Friday night at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge, with a powerplay goal three and a half minutes into the first period.
Bissett struck back for the Flames less than a minute later, starting a run of eight unanswered goals for Ridge Meadows.
Brandys scored to give the Flames the lead midway through the first and Bissett scored his second of the period to send Ridge Meadows into the middle frame with a 3-1 lead.
The Flames dominated the second period, scoring five goals on just 13 shots. Bissett notched his fifth hat trick of the season three minutes into the second. Pesut scored a pair before Paul Piluso fired home a shorthanded goal with less than four minutes to play. Bissett scored his fourth goal of the night before the end of the period, prompting Mission to finally pull goaltender Scott Lapp after allowing eight goals on 21 shots.
Mission responded with their second goal of the game on the powerplay in the dying seconds of the period.
Mission backup William Latimer was able to keep the Flames off the board for much of the third period, only allowing a single goal by Piluso on 11 shots.
Bissett finished the game with five points and first star honours, while Brandys had a goal, three assists, and the second star.
Bradley Wardner and Dean Gilmore each picked up a pair of assists, while Corey Dubbeldam and Shane Harle picked up an assist each.
Wardner has four points in his last five games to lead Flames defencemen in scoring.
"He has really picked up his play lately," said Fiset. "He's really emerging into the type of defenceman we think he can be."
The Flames showed no signs of fatigue as they played their second game in as many days Saturday on the road against Port Moody.
The Flames fired 53 shots on net as they stormed to a 5-1 victory thanks to some inspired play early in the game.
Bissett opened the scoring for the Flames seven and a half minutes in, with Alex Smith following up with a pair of goals to give the Flames a 3-0 lead after 20. The Flames didn't waste any time adding to their lead in the second period, with Bissett and Smith both scoring in first two minutes.
The Flames looked poised to register a shutout, however, the Black Panthers scored midway through the third.
Flames backup Jordan Hospes registered the win, stopping 34 of 35 shots he faced. Hospes was briefly sidelined after taking a slapshot to the mask, which opened up a cut on the bridge of his nose.
"He toughed it out and came back into the game," said Fiset.
Bissett's two-goal effort earned him first-star honours for the second night in a row, while Alex Smith was named the game's second star for his two goals.
"He played a very clutch game for us," said Fiset of Smith's efforts. "
Brandys finished with two assists, while Piluso, Keagan Hunter, Shane Harle, and Marco Ballarin each had helpers of their own.
The Flames have two regular season games before they face either Abbotsford or Aldergrove in the opening round of the PIJHL playoffs.
This Thursday, the Flames travel to Richmond to face the Sockeyes, the top junior B team in the Lower Mainland, and return home on Friday to play the North Vancouver Wolf Pack.
"Richmond is a good test for this time of year," said Fiset. "Historically, we've struggled in their building... but we're looking forward to the game. We believe we can compete with anyone in this league right now, which is a nice change."
• The Ridge Meadows Flames final home game of the regular season takes place this Friday as the Flames host the North Vancouver Wolf Pack at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge. Game time is 7:30 p.m.