Flames at mid-season: glass half full?

The Ridge Meadows Flames are exactly halfway through their season, and there is as much fodder for those who look at the cup as being half..

The Ridge Meadows Flames are exactly halfway through their season, and there is as much fodder for those who look at the cup as being half empty as for those who see it half full.

Half empty: This team has just 16 points in 22 games. Its record is 6-12-1-3 (wins, losses, ties and OT losses).

Only two teams on the circuit half fewer points.

Half full: Only two of the 10 teams in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League don’t make the playoffs. The Flames should get into the post season, and they have shown they can take on the league’s toughest teams.

Half empty: This team has trouble holding leads, and has bled an average of 4.13 goals per game.

Half full: The offence is there. The scorching offence has scored 21 goals in its last three games. Defence can be taught far more easily than a coach can breath life into a moribund offence.

Half empty: The team is young, making rookie mistakes.

Half full: The Flames boast one of the toughest-to-contain top lines in the PIJHL.

The Ridge junior Bs have been hot of late, scoring in bunches against quality opposition, and boasts one of the best lines in the league. This is why is why head coach Jamie Fiset is encouraged, and it’s how he reassures his players that they will compete. It’s easier to get players to come to the rink and work hard when they are at least having the success of scoring their share of goals.

On Friday night, the Flames lost to the tough North Vancouver Wolf Pack (13-8-1-1) by a score of 6-5 in overtime.

The next night, they lost to the Abbotsford Pilots (15-6-1-0) by an 8-6 margin.

“But we were a wounded lineup on Saturday,” said Fiset. “We had one lead and we couldn’t hold onto it, and then had another lead and couldn’t hold onto it.”

But he sees progress, compared with some of the lopsided losses that were happening to his club earlier in the season.

“We were never even in those games,” he said.

Netminder Tyler Read was playing great goal, but in the Nov. 15 win against the North Delta Devils a player crashed the crease and Read slammed his head into the crossbar. He is out indefinitely with concussion symptoms.

Backup Kurt Klimek has been gaining valuable experience. He is a Langley prospect who led his midget A team to a gold medal in the provincials, and Fiset considers him one of the best young goaltenders in the league.

The trouble is, when you combine a newby in goal with five rookies on defence – as the Flames had on Saturday – there are bound to be some goals scored against you.

“In our last three games, we have 21 goals, but in that time, we have one win, one loss and a tie,” noted Fiset.

The line of Barco Ballarin, Boston Colley and Dale Howell has given opposing defenders fits.

“I don’t think there’s a line in the league that can match them,” said Fiset.

Ballarin is seventh in league scoring with 15 goals and 30 points in 21 games. Colley came back from Junior A in Lloydminster, and has since put up four goals and 11 points in nine games.

Howell has 20 points in 18 games.

“When you need a goal, they aways give you a  chance, every time they’re out there.”

Fiset has divided the season roughly into quarters. At the halfway point, his goal for games 23 to 32 is to start making winning a habit.

“During this next quarter we want to be above .500,” he said.

Then, he will set a new focus for the final quarter stretch of games that lead into the PIJHL playoffs.

• The Flames called up affiliate player Carmine Buono for Saturday’s game, and the 16-year-old defenceman out of Burnaby scored the team’s second goal by a defenceman this year, and was otherwise “outstanding,” said Fiset. Buono took the spot of Nicholas Coltura, who was hit in the neck by a shot.

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