The Ridge Meadows Flames got their first win of the season on Friday night, took another point in an overtime loss, and have rookies and young players making impressive contributions.
The Flames beat the Port Moody Panthers 5-4 on Friday night at home, then Saturday in Abbotsford took the Pilots to overtime in a 4-3 loss.
Playing some good hockey was a great way to forget the start of the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s opening weekend, that saw the team lose twice, including a 10-1 embarrassment at the hands of the North Vancouver Wolf Pack.
Maple Ridge’s own Isaac Tomic led the way with six points in two games this past weekend. The former Langley Trapper had just one assist in 21 games last season, but busted out with a hat trick on Friday night in front of his hometown crowd.
Coach Bayne Ryshak said Tomic has a sneaky release and when he gets his hard, accurate shot on net, good things happen.
“He’s getting an opportunity this year, and he’s making the most of it.”
Another local player, goaltender Eric Clark, got his first win in the game, making 18 saves on 22 shots. Ryshak said he appeared to be a bit nervous in his first start at home, then settled down.
“He was good. He made saves when he needed to, and got his first win.”
Tetsuya Prior, the former Delta Ice Hawk, also had a goal and an assist, and Jayden Genberg also scored.
Maple Ridge’s Brayden Szabados, a local playing for the opposition, was all over the scoresheed for the Panthers – he was whistled for 16 minutes on head contact, elbowing, and goaltender interference minors, and 10 minute misconduct.
The next night in Abbotsford, Tomic had a goal and two assists, while Prior and Jarod McKay also scored, as the Flames lost 4-3 in overtime.
The Flames led the game 3-2 after the second period. But the Pilots equalized, including a goal on the power play with 17 seconds left to send the game to extra time. They also got the game winner on the power play early in overtime.
“We’re a young team this year, and we have some lessons to learn about playing a full 60 minutes,” said Ryshak, adding that the effort was evident, but some puck management decisions were questionable.
There is no love between the two teams, who played a gritty series in the PJHL playoffs last season, which the Flames took in five games.
Ryshak has been impressed with the play of some of the newcomers on the blueline in Emmett Garrett, Ethan Kitsch and Jackson O’Brien, who played with Mission and Port Moody.
Kitsch is a 16-year-old rookie from Maple Ridge who is taking a regular shift and holding his own.
Garrett is a “really steady” defender whose play has been appreciated by the coach for a lot of reasons.
“He’s so calm, and he does lots of little things right,” said Ryshak.
He added the weekend’s results helped to erase the North Van debacle. So did about three hard practices.
“Whatever could go wrong that night did,” said Ryshak. “But that game is so far behind us now.”
• The Flames also announced the signing of Ryan Denney, a 17-year-old from Maple Ridge who has played with several of their core players. He has BCHL experience and was a late cut this year. He was picked by the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League bantam draft in 2016.
Ryshak said Denney is strong in all aspects of the game – skating, shooting and playing in all situaitons.
“We expect him to have a big push for us offensively, and be a big part of our team,” said Ryshak.
• The Flames will host the White Rock Whalers on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Planet Ice Maple Ridge.