The Ridge Meadows Flames saw their first action of the 2012/13 Pacific Junior Hockey League season Wednesday night in Aldergrove, losing 3-1 to the hometown Kodiaks.
Given the Flames lost 9-2 to Kodiaks in their first meeting last season, head coach Jamie Fiset sees a big improvement over the team that started last season.
“I’m happy with our performance, an I saw a lot of positives to build off,” he said. “The goals they got were from mistakes that we made, mistakes that are easily remedied.”
While Flames’ starting goalie Wesley McLeod gets tagged with the loss, his efforts between the pipes was commendable, with 50 saves to his credit.
Fiset would have preferred to have generated more opportunities at the other end of the rink, instead of being outshot 53-30.
“We’re not the kind of team that throws a lot of shots away, but we have to find the back of the net more often,” he said.
The Flames were outshot 21-10 in the first period, but managed to make it to the dressing room with the game still scoreless.
“Our rookies had some jitters in the first period, but they settled down by the second [period],” Fiset said. “It was the first real game for them at this level, I thought they did well.”
The Kodiaks opened the scoring in the second period with a shorthanded goal from Stephen Ryan, who scored unassisted. The Flames were able to make their next power ply count, however, as Darcy Rai was given five minutes and a game misconduct for a slash to Flames defenceman Nick Coltura.
That set the stage for Matt Bissett, who scored with the man-advantage with less than 20 seconds left to play in the period to even the score. Bradley Wardner and Sean Pesut had assists on the play.
“With him in the lineup, it’s an extra goal or two per game,” said Fiset of Bissett, who tallied 50 points in just 33 games last season. “It’s a matter of keeping him with players that can set him up and create space for him.”
The Kodiaks retook the lead four minutes into the third period. The Flames were pressing for the late equalizer when, with six minutes remaining, Paul Piluso was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit to the head.
“That really hurt us,” Fiset said. “Piluso is a bigger player, and the guy he hit was a lot smaller. When that happens, you’re going to get that call.”
The Kodiaks didn’t take long to capitalize on the five-minute power play, with Daniel Higgs scoring 20 seconds later.
With less than minute left on the clock, the Flames pulled McLeod for the extra attacker, but were unable to cut the Kodiaks’ lead.
“We took a 1-1 tie into the third period, so it was a winnable game,” said Fiset. “We traded chances with them, but they we’re able to get better chances.”
He said he expects a better result tonight (Friday) for the Flames’ home opener against the Mission City Outlaws at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge.
The Flames were 2-1-1 against Mission in preseason play, the last place team in the league last season. However, Fiset said his team can’t afford to take anybody lightly.
“They’re a good team, and I think they’ll have a few more veteran players in the lineup this time,” he said.
Success for the Flames will come down to speed and tenacity, Fiset said.
“We have to out-skate and out-check them,” he said. “When we do those two things, things go well.”
• The Ridge Meadows Flames host the Mission City Outlaws in their home opener tonight (Friday) at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge. Game time is at 7:30 p.m., with a tail gate party and barbecue before the game at 6:30 p.m.