The playoffs loom, and the Ridge Meadows Flames have a big game tonight, with playoff implications.
“It’s the closest you’ll see to a playoff game before the playoffs start,” said Flames coach Bayne Ryshak of the Friday night tilt against the Mission City Outlaws.
With a win, the Flames will likely clinch their season series, and third place in the Harold Brittain Conference. That would mean avoiding the first-place Aldergrove Kodiaks in the opening round of the playoffs, and instead taking on the Abbotsford Pilots when the post-season begins in mid February.
Ryshak bravely said his team can’t be worried about which opponent they will face, but his team has had no success against the Kodiaks.
The Pilots are a good team that has gone 24-13-0-4 this season, but the Flames are a respectable 3-3 against them.
Conversely, the Kodiaks are a powerhouse that has a 33-7 record, and are nine points clear of the second-place team in the Pacific Junior Hockey League.
The Flames have lost all six outings against them this season.
“They’re built to win their year,” said Ryshak, noting that the Kodiaks are loaded with 20-year-olds. They have seven players ready to age out of junior hockey, while the youngish Flames have one.
Heading into Thursday night’s action, the Flames had four games left, and the schedule is favourable.
Last night, they were playing the Surrey Knights, who have gone winless in 41 games so far this season, and in all probability will go o-fer the entire season. They have scored half as many goals as the next lowest team with just 60 on the year, while giving up twice as many goals as most other teams at 272 against – almost seven goals per game.
The last time they played the Flames just eight players dressed for them, and Ryshak said the game was “almost like a practice.”
“It really wasn’t fair to those players,” said Ryshak. “It was not hockey.”
Provided they didn’t “stub their toe” in that game, Ryshak was anticipating a battle against Mission on Friday night. The Flames are 18-18-2-2. The Mission City Outlaws are 18-19-0-4.
The Flames also take on the middle-of-the-pack Richmond Sockeyes on Feb. 9, and end the season at home against the Port Moody Panthers, who are in last place in the Tom Shaw Conference, on Feb. 10.
The Flames were without seven regulars the last time they faced Aldergrove, but Ryshak said they should be getting players back in time for the last weekend of the season.
“At this point of the season it’s about getting yourself playing the right way, and getting healthy, and get prepared to make your mark.”