The Ridge Meadows Flames advanced in the Pacific Junior Hockey League playoffs with a 5-1 win over the Pilots in Abbotsford on Friday.
Up 1-0 after two periods, the Flames tallied four times in the final frame to eliminate the Pilots in five games.
Ryley Lanthier led the Flames with a goal and two assists. Andrew Strelezki and Brandon Galbraith had a goal and an assist each. Halen Cordoni and Jonah Lige also scored, while Paul Tucek stopped 40 of 41 shots for the win.
Pilots coach Jim Cowden said his team had chances, but just couldn’t slip enough past Tucek.
“We ran into a hot goalie,” Cowden said following the game. “We had our chances, we fired 41 shots at him in game four, but even at point blank we missed.”
Cowden pointed to game one as a turning point in the series. The Pilots were up 5-1 on home ice heading into the third period, but Tucek shut the door after coming on in relief mid-way through the second period. Ridge Meadows came back to win that game 6-5 in overtime.
Tucek was stellar in every game of the series, allowing just six goals in five appearances. His save percentage was .962 going into Friday’s game.
Flames head coach Bayne Ryshak acknowledged Tucek’s fine play.
“He played very, very well after coming in in relief in Game 1, and he never looked back.”
The playoff series win was the first for the Flames since 2010, and an important one, said Ryshak.
“It was a pretty important learning experience for a young team, even for our veterans.”
After losing in the first round last year, he was hoping the team could take a step forward this year.
And now the Flames have.
They face the Aldergrove Kodiaks, who finished first in the Harold Brittain Conference in the regular season in the junior B semi-finals.
The first-placed Kodiaks finished 24 points ahead of the Flames in the standings and took all six regular season meetings.
Ryshak points to their last meeting, in which the Flames came back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the score before falling by one.
Besides being the oldest team in the league, the Kodiaks also boast the league’s best power play, at 21.3 per cent efficiency.
“For us, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Ryshak said. “We have youth and energy on our side.”
He said the Flames will focus on being sound in their own end and good in transition, attacking the offensive blueline with speed.
“We have to stay out of the box,” Ryshak said.
He added that Aldergrove has some top players they will have to watch out for, in particular Elijah Vilio on defense. He had 39 points in 39 regular season games.
“He can wheel with the best D-men in the league.”
Ryshak said the Flames will also have to pay attention to Davin Padgham, a defenseman with a big shot who had 18 points in 18 games with Aldergrove.
The Kodiaks also have some skilled, experienced forwards.
“It’s a good test for our guys,” Ryshak said.
He plans to start Tuck, but have full confidence in Jack Stradiotti, if needed.
“We are really lucky to have great goaltending.”
Game 1 is Wednesday in Aldergrove, 7:15 p.m.
“The guys are pretty excited to get going,” Ryshak said.