It was the third loss in a row for the Ridge Meadows Flames Saturday night against the Port Moody Black Panthers, and it couldn’t have come in more heart-breaking fashion.
Tied 3-3 with four minutes to play, the Flames were pressing hard on the power play when the potential game-winning goal was waved off.
Flames head coach Tavis Eaton said the puck went through the net, and out the other side. The referee checked the net, but couldn’t find any evidence of a hole.
“I saw it, our guys saw it, but the referees didn’t,” said Eaton. “But those things happen.”
Port Moody was able to kill the penalty and took a power play of their own with a minute and a half to play in regulation after Cory Day was called for slashing.
The teams made it overtime but Port Moody put the game away 30 seconds into the extra frame with their third power play goal of the night.
“It’s tough, because it probably would have won us the game,” said Eaton of the disallowed goal. “I guess the hockey gods were not on our side that night.”
Adam Bartsch, Ryan Stewart and Dustin Cervo scored for the Flames, while Felix Fielder, Matthew Keller, and Shane Harle picked up assists.
While Saturday’s loss might be chalked up to tough luck, the Flames’ fortunes of late have everything to do with a lack of focus and preparedness by the team.
“We’re like Jekyll and Hyde,” said Eaton. “When we come prepared to play, we can compete with anyone.”
But when the team is off its game, the results can be disastrous, as was the case in their two previous losses, both by a 5-0 margin to Mission and Grandview.
After a December that saw them go 7-2 and leap back into the play-off picture, the Flames have gone 1-2-1 in the new year.
The Flames have been out-shot by their opponents in seven straight games, going 3-3-1 during that stretch. The Flames averaged just 29 shots per game in that span, while allowing 42.
That’s meant plenty of work for goaltenders Mackenzie Skapski and Tyler Klassen, and few opportunities to at the other end of the rink.
“You have to put pucks on net if you want to get goals,” said Eaton. “I’m trying to get the guys to shoot more, at least so we have some rebounds.”
Ultimately, it’s up to the players on the ice to decide what kind of season they want to have, he noted, and with less than ten games to go before the play-offs begin, they need to decide now..
“It’s up to them how far they want to go,” Eaton said. “I’m hoping we come around, and get hot at the right time, going into the play-offs.”
• The Flames next home game is this Friday against the Aldergrove Kodiaks at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge. Game time is 7:30 p.m.