With the playoffs coming up, and a tough opponent ahead for the fourth-place Ridge Meadows Flames, they faced two of the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s toughest teams over the weekend.
The Flames took on the two top teams out of the Tom Shaw Conference over the weekend, and dropped both games.
The Flames lost 2-1 to the Grandview Steelers on Sunday night at the Burnaby Winter Club. To blame was a sputtering power play, which went 0-6 and allowed the Steelers to win the special teams battle with one power play goal in their four attempts.
But team general manager Jamie Fiset was satisfied that his team had played a tough opponent – the Steelers are second in their conference – and given themselves a chance to win.
“It was a real back-and-forth game, and we played them well,” he said.
Marco Ballarin got the Flames only goal, and Jason Sandu stopped 28 of 30 shots.
The Steelers got the game winning goal from former Flame Jake Holland, the Maple Ridge product who was traded last month.
The Flames lost to the first-place North Vancouver Wolf Pack 5-1 on Friday night.
Boston Colley got the only goal for the Flames.
“North Van really took it to us in the third. We couldn’t get anything going,” said Fiset.
After a good first period, where the shots were 9-9, the Flames were outshot 35-16 over the second and third periods.
Last Tuesday the Flames blasted the Delta Ice Hawks 6-3.
Brandon Inwood scored a hat trick for the Flames, Colley and Bradley Crompton each had two assists, and Dale Howell, Cameron Alder and Ryan Welburn each scored.
They have a record of 17-20-2-3, and will finish in fourth place, and face either the Mission City Outlaws or Abbotsford Pilots in the first round of the playoffs.
Either will be a big challenge to upset, but Fiset believes its do-able.
“We’ve beaten both of them,” said Fiset.
“Mission has that deadly offence, but Abbotsford has maybe a harder working team.”
Ballarin a big boost
The Flames got a boost when Ballarin returned from playing junior A for parts of three seasons. The 20-year old rejoined the Flames 13 games ago, and has given his old team a boost, with seven goals and 14 points so far.
In his third season with the Flames in 2013-2014, Ballarin was tearing it up with 16 goals and 32 points in 23 games, when he was moved up the hockey ladder.
He was signed by the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL. He finished that season and played there the next, before being traded to the Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He was having a solid campaign statistically, with 15 points in 25 games, but was again traded – this time to a Saskatchewan Junior team, in a little town of 2,700 in the far north.
Rather than report to the La Ronge Ice Wolves at the end of his final season, the New West resident chose to finish up close to home, with his old team.
• The Flames have just two games left on the regular season schedule.
On Thursday they will take on the Langley Knights at the George Preston Recreation Centre, and on Friday they will host the Grandview Steelers at 7:30 p.m. at Planet Ice.
On Saturday night they will learn who they face in the first round, and the playoff schedule for the best-of-seven series will begin the following week.