The Ridge Meadows Flames are going to have to improve their defence if they have any hope of making the playoffs.
The Flames find themselves 1-2 early in the Jr. B season and in a familiar position that hampered their chances of making the playoffs last year.
The Flames gave up 174 goals against while only scoring 130 last season. Their minus-44 goal differential was the second worst in the Pacific Junior Hockey League.
The Flames may be only three games into the season, but their team defence will have to pick up their play if they hope to improve on their 16-win season last year.
The Flames have given up 19 goals in their first three games and are allowing an average of just more than 41 shots per contest.
They lost 5-2 Wednesday night in Aldergrove against the undefeated Kodiaks and will look to get back in the win column Friday, when they host the Richmond Sockeyes at Planet Ice, 7:30 p.m.
Flames coach Jamie Fiset said the combination of having rookie defenceman means there will be a learning curve for his team. He also said the team’s record and stats don’t fall squarely on the back end. He called out his forwards to do more.
“There’s going to be some bumps and bruises early on. We know we have to be patient with our younger players,” said Fiset. “But that’s also the forwards not blocking very many shots. It’s something we have to work on and get better at.”
The Flames opened the season with a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over the Delta Ice Hawks. However, the Flames gave up three two-goal leads in the game before winning in the extra frame.
The Flames led 2-0 late into the second period, 3-1 with just 14 minutes remaining and 4-2 with just under seven minutes left before giving up two goals in the span of 34 seconds while short-handed to tie the game at 4-4.
Dale Howell scored the winner 15 seconds into the extra frame on a feed from Boston Colley and Ben Chipman.
Colley lead the Flames with two goals and a pair of helpers, while Nolan Ferguson and Alexandre Furlan also scored for the Flames. Goalie Jeremy Tamelin picked up the win, facing a whopping 50 shots.
More concerning was their 10-2 shellacking at the hands of the Port Mood Panthers on Saturday, Sept. 10.
The Panthers only registered six wins in the 2014/15 season, scored a league low 115 goals, gave up a league-high 215, and mercifully ended the season on a 19-game losing streak.
Trailing the Panther’s 2-0 with just over four minutes left in the second, the Flames were still in the game. However, in the span of 2:48, the Flames came completely unravelled, giving up five goals and headed into the third down 7-0.
“There are times when you play a team and they completely out match you from start to finish and you’re never in it,” said Fiset. “Then you have what happened to us on Saturday, where for a five-minute period, five goals go in. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not that type of setback.”
He said the combination of having to dress four rookie defenceman after Cam Alder was suspended for checking from behind in Saturday’s opener and fatigue lead to his team running out of gas in the second period.
“I’ve been in games were you see something like three quick goals, but never five. I guess there’s a first for everything,” said Fiset.
The Flames finally got on the scored board in the third after falling behind 9-0 when Jake Holland scored his first goal of the year.
Tamelin gave up seven goals on 37 shots while backup James Peakman gave up three goals in just 1:18 seconds of relief work. The Flames gave up 45 shots in the tilt.
Fiset said he feels the home opener is more of a reflection of this year’s edition of the Flames and he’s optimistic they can compete on a nightly basis.
• The Flames host the Richmond Sockeyes Friday, Sept. 18 at Planet Ice at 7:30 p.m.