The Ridge Meadows Flames left things to the last second Friday at home against the Abbotsford Pilots, as Todd Fletcher scored with one second remaining to play to give the local junior B hockey team the regulation win, its third in a row.
The win all but guarantees the Flames a berth in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League playoffs as they are now seven points ahead of the last-place Aldergrove Kodiaks with four games left to play.
“It was a big win for us, they all are this time of year,” said Flames head coach Tavis Eaton.
The Flames opened the scoring early in the first period, as Danny Brandys scored his 16th goal of the year just 43 seconds into the game.
However, the Pilots responded in the latter stages of the opening frame, putting a pair of pucks past Flames netminder Tyler Klassen, taking a 2-1 lead into the locker room. Klassen faced a whopping 24 shots in the first period alone, while the Flames managed just seven shots on Pilots goaltender Cole Chreptyk.
Things settled down in the second period with the Pilots taking a slight 11-10 shot advantage over the Flames. Both teams failed to score, and the Pilots entered the third period with a one-goal lead.
Fletcher, in his first game back with the Flames this season after tearing his MCL, tied things up four minutes into the final frame, only to have the Pilots answer back three minutes later and regain their one-goal lead.
“Having him back really helps us,” said Eaton of the 20-year-old defenceman.
Flames captain CJ Legassic scored his 14th goal of the season to tie the game with less than 10 minutes to play.
The Flames spent much of the latter stages of the game on the power play, after Abbotsford was assessed three consecutive minor penalties. Pilots Brendan Nadolny and Brett Kolins were called for cross checking and hooking, respectively, in the final minute of play, leading to a five-on-three advantage for the Flames.
That set the stage for Fletcher, who notched his second of the night with one second remaining on the game clock to give the Flames the regulation win and deny the Pilots the extra point.
The goal sparked outrage on the Pilots bench, as coach Jim Cowden and assistant Chris DiFrancescantonio made their displeasure with the officiating abundantly clear, resulting in the team being assessed a gross misconduct.
“It certainly was entertaining,” said Eaton of the spectacle. “They took some undisciplined penalties at the end, but they deserved what they got.
“I didn’t see them complaining when we got six penalties in a row to start the game.”
The Flames have a busy week ahead of them as the regular season draws to a close with three conference match-ups. The team faces Aldergrove tonight on the road, before returning home to play Mission Friday night at Planet Ice and Port Moody on the road again on Saturday.
“These are the games that will determine where we will be in the play-offs,” said Eaton. “They are all very important.”
The Ridge Meadows Flames next home game is this Friday against the Mission Icebreakers at 7:30 p.m. at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge.