Ridge Meadows Flames head coach Bayne Ryshak expects his team’s first-round playoff series to be a war of attrition.
The local junior B team opens the PJHL playoffs Friday against the Abbotsford Pilots at MSA, 7:30 p.m.
The two teams split their regular-season series 3-3, with the Flames recording two shutouts in those meetings, but losing the last one 7-2.
The Flames finished league play last week with a pair of 3-0 victories. They posted shutouts in three of their final five games, allowing just two goals total.
“It was a good finish to the season,” Ryshak said.
He has been preaching since the start to not focus on results, but playing the right way – protecting their own end first, boxing players out, taking sticks and back-checking hard, not giving up second and third scoring opportunities.
They did and finished right where they wanted – in the playoffs, against Abbotsford.
Ryshak said the teams match up well.
Both are young, with players born in 1998 making up the cores, fast and physical.
“Both move the puck well.”
Ryshak suspects the one that is more disciplined and makes the most of its opportunities will prevail, and that includes special teams.
“Special teams will be huge,” Ryshak said. “Both can be lethal on the power play.”
The Flames have the league’s fourth ranked power play, at 16.7 per cent efficiency, and rank third in penalty killing.
Abbotsford is sixth in power play and fourth in penalty killing.
A win on the road could be important, too, he added.
“Both teams are good at home.”
The Flames are at home on Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Planet Ice.
Game 3 is scheduled for Abbotsford on Tuesday, 7 p.m.
The Flames, after taking a 3-0 series lead in the opening-round of the playoffs last year, lost four straight to the eventual champion, Mission.
The team has several returning players from that group, as well as one from Mission.
Abbotsford finished ahead of the Flames in the Harold Brittain conference by six points in the regular season this year.
But that doesn’t matter to Ryshak.
“Once you’re there, who knows?”
He points to the league’s first playoff game Tuesday, when North Vancouver, a No 4 seed, defeated Delta, a No. 1 seed, 3-2.
“Anything can happen in the playoffs.”
Ridge goalie top NCHC player
St. Cloud State University sophomore Jeff Smith of Maple Ridge has been selected as the Bauer National Collegiate Hockey Conference Rookie of the Week for the week of Feb. 6-12.
Smith continued his strong play of late, backstopping the Huskies to a home weekend sweep of Miami. He allowed only three goals in the series, while posting a .942 save percentage and a 1.50 goals-against average.
On Friday, the transfer from UMass Lowell racked up 30 saves in a 4-2 victory, including 12 saves in the decisive third period.
The next night, Smith totaled 19 saves in a 3-1 win, allowing his only even strength goal of the series.
On the season, Smith is now 9-8-0 with a 2.44 GAA and a .915 save rate.
The Huskies currently owns a 15-14-1 overall record and are 9-10-1 in the always rugged NCHC.