Maple Ridge Burrards head coach Darren Fridge is left thinking of what could have been after the season came to a close with an 11-7 win over the Naniamo Timbermen Saturday night on the Island.
Despite the win, the Burrards missed the playoffs for the second straight year after a late-season collapse opened the door for Coquitlam and Burnaby to leap-frog them in the standings in the second half of the season.
“There’s no one specific area that I can pinpoint,” said Fridge. “Whether it was injuries or team defence, we just didn’t get it done. I think the things that made us successful at the start of the season just weren’t there at the end. We got away from playing as a team down the stretch.”
The Burrards started the season with a 5-2 record and looked poised to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season. But a 3-8 finish left the Burrards on the outside looking in.
“We held our own fate in our hands,” said Fridge.
Before taking the season finale in a mean-nothing game against the Timbermen, the Burrards had lost five straight games and saw their playoff hopes vanish. More crushing was the way they lost. Four of the five defeats were by one goal.
The head coach said a little luck going their way during the five-game losing streak and their Saturday night game on the Island could have been about playoff position instead of draft position.
Fridge said looking back, it was team defence that ultimately broke down.
While the team’s up-tempo offence produced the second best totals in the league with 184 goals, it gave up the second most goals at 189. Only the Timbermen gave up more, at 198. He refused to pin the blame on his goaltending, led by Chris Levis. Instead, he said they simply gave up too many odd-man rushes and power play goals as the season wore on.
“We ran a pressure defence all season,” noted Fridge. “I don’t want to say we were predictable, but looking back we could have probably run more man-to-man and zone schemes.”
While Levis’ record was a respectable 7-9, his goals against average of 10.50 was second last in the league amongst starters and his .763 save percentage ranked at the bottom.
But Fridge said it wasn’t just the amount of shots the team gave up, but the quality of opportunities his goaltending faced that made it difficult to win late in the season.
“All it takes is one breakdown and the whole system can fall apart,” he said.
While the team must wait for next season for redemption, the season wasn’t a complete loss. The Burrards doubled their win total over last year’s effort and boasted the scoring leader in Curtis Dickson.
The 6’2’’, 200-pound forward had a tremendous offensive season, compiling 58 goals and 45 assists for a total of 103 points in 17 games. The scoring title comes after Dickson spent all but two games on the sidelines in 2012 with a shoulder injury.
Teammate Jarrett Davis was number five in league scoring, with 19 goals and 54 assists for 73 points.
Fridge said the team is looking towards the draft for some upgrades, but doesn’t see this year’s crop as being especially deep.
• The WLA playoffs get underway Wednesday, Aug. 1 as the second place Victoria Shamrocks host the third place Burnaby Lakers. The Langley Thunder, the defending WLA champs play host to the Coquitlam Adanaks in the other Western semi-final starting Thursday, Aug. 2. The winner of WLA title will host the Mann Cup, slated to start Friday, Sept. 6. The Shamrocks were the last WLA team to win the Mann Cup in 2005.