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Flames and Kodiaks ready for playoff battle
The Ridge Meadows Flames begin their playoff series against the Kodiaks on Monday night in Aldergrove.
The Flames have gone 0-6 against Aldergrove this year in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League, but coaches on both sides of the series are predicting the best-of-seven will be close,
Flames head coach Jamie Fiset points out that the Flames also went 0-6 against the Kodiaks last season, but gave them all they could handle in the playoffs. Fiset took over the club with seven games left in the regular season, and guided them on a playoff run that went six games deep, and just nine minutes away from forcing a game seven.
The Kodiaks were in fourth place in the league, with a record of 27-15-0-1. Ridge was 15-20-2-5, and tied for sixth in the 10-team league.
Kodiaks coach Ron Johnson doesn’t put much stock in his team’s perfect record against the Flames.
“Hockey’s a game of bounces, and we’ve had some lucky ones,” he said.
“There is no favourite in the playoffs – that’s what I’ve learned. You have to earn everything you get.”
Johnson has enjoyed some success in the PIJHL, with two championships while with the Richmond Sockeyes a decade ago, and another with Aldergrove.
He picked fast players for his squad, teaches solid defensive coverage, hard work, and balanced offence.
“If everyone’s scoring, everyone’s happy,” he said.
He had nine players in double digit goal scoring, and four players with 40-plus poiints, led by Stephen Ryan with 48 points through 42 games.
Rookie 17-year-old MacLean Hewitt is from Maple Ridge, and had 16 goals and 24 points this season with the Kodiaks.
Fiset said he has had team meetings and individual player meetings to clearly define each players’ role for the series.
With his team finally getting healthy, and with the confidence of having beaten the league’s elite teams this year, he expects them to again play Aldergrove close.
“They’ve a very consistent team,” Fiset said of his playoff rivals. “They execute their system very well.”
He said they also have one of the league’s best goaltenders in Mark Menicucci.
He boasts a sterling 0.933 save percentage – one off the league’s best.
Fiset will start his 20-year-old netminder Wesley MacLeod, who had a save percentage of 0.881.
“He’s our 20-year-old, and he has played well,” said Fiset. “He’s capable of stealing a series.”
He said the goal is to go into Aldergrove on Monday and Wednesday and earn a split.
“It’s going to be an entertaining series.”
Johnson said his club respects the Flames.
“I wish Ridge Meadows a good series – they’ve got a talented hockey club, and the coaches have done a good job there,” he said.
Johnson has been resting players for the playoffs, and iced a team with eight affiliate players during a recent 6-2 loss to the Abbotsford Pilots.
The Flames play their last game of the regular season against the Mission City Outlaws tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Planet Ice.
Flames vs Kodiaks Series
- Monday, Feb. 18, 8:30 p.m. Aldergrove Community Centre
- Wednesday, Feb. 20, 7:15 p.m. Aldergrove CC
- Friday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m. Planet Ice Maple Ridge
- Saturday, Feb. 23, 7:45 p.m. Planet Ice
- Wednesday, Feb. 27, 7:15 p.m. Aldergrove CC
- Friday, March 1, 7:30 p.m.
- Game 7, date to be confirmed