The Ridge Meadows Flames blew a three-goal lead to fall 5-3 Monday night on the road in the first game of their best-of-seven series with the Port Moody Black Panthers in the first round of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League playoffs.“A couple bad breaks, and the next thing you know, they’re back in the game,” said Flames coach Tavis Eaton. “[Port Moody] is well-coached, they work hard, and they never give up, and that shows in how they came back to win, and it should be a lesson to our guys: You can’t take your foot off the gas, even when you have a three-goal lead.”The Flames opened up a 3-0 lead midway through the second period thanks to a pair of goals from CJ Legassic and one from Ryan Stewart, and held a 15-to-7 shot advantage after the first period.However, Port Moody stormed back with a pair of goals less than three minutes apart late in the second period.It was all Black Panthers from then on as they added another quick pair of goals early in the third to take a one-goal lead, before adding an empty-netter to seal the win.Despite pressure by the Flames late in the third to tie the game, luck was not on their side as they careened puck after puck off the Port Moody crossbar and goal posts. “Luck seems to even out over the course of series, so I’m not worried,” said Eaton.Overall, Eaton said he was pleased with the play of his team, especially team captain Legassic.“He played great, he’s playing like a true captain, leading by example,” said Eaton. For Legassic, as well as Sean Kavanagh, Matthew Keller, Dustin Cervo, Matthew Hargreaves, Todd Fletcher, Bayne Ryshak and Tristano Falbo – all of whom are over 20 years old – this season is their last kick at can in the PIJHL, and Eaton hopes they make the most of it.“This is it for them,” he said. “They want to extend their season because its their last one. But I can’t do it for them, it’s up to the players on the ice.”The Flames hope to get back on track tonight at home at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge. Game time is 8 p.m.• The Flames won their final game of the regular season at home Friday night against the Black Panthers 7-5, thanks in no small part to a four-point effort from Danny Brandys. Brandys finishes the regular season with a whopping 72 points in 46 games, just one point off Liam Harding of the Delta Ice Hawks for the league scoring title.
Port Moody leads series 1-0• Monday, Feb. 21: Flames 3 @ Panthers 5• Wednesday, Feb. 23: Panthers @ Flames, Planet Ice 8 p.m.• Friday, Feb. 25: Panthers @ Flames, Planet Ice, 7:30 p.m.• Saturday, Feb. 26: Flames @ Panthers, 7:45 p.m.• *Monday, Feb. 28: Flames @ Panthers, 7:30 p.m.• *Wednesday, Mar. 2: Panthers @ Flames, Planet Ice, 7:30 p.m.• *Friday, Mar. 5: Flames @ Panthers, TBA * If necessary