The Ridge Meadows Flames may not have come away with two points Tuesday against the first-place Delta Ice Hawks, but they again proved they can hang with the best teams in junior B hockey league.
The Flames lost 2-1 in overtime in Delta, earning a point despite getting outshot 51-18.
In the past three games, the Flames have taken five of a possible six points against the top three teams in the Pacific Junior Hockey League: Delta (25 points); Richmond (21 points); and Abbotsford (15 points).
For Flames coach Jamie Fiset, it’s a sign his team is on the right track after a 1-4 start to the season.
“It’s always nice to get a point on the road, especially against a team like Delta,” he said. “We like where we’re at right now.”
A misconduct given to Flames’ starting goalie Wes McLeod late in Friday’s win over Richmond kept him out of the lineup Tuesday, but Flames backup R.J. Bruni performed admirably in net, stopping 49 of 51 shots and earning the game’s first-star honours.
“We really showed us what he can do,” said Fiset. “We thought all along he had this in him, but he proved he can be a big-game player, and against the most potent offense in the league.”
The Flames managed to keep the Ice Hawks off the scoreboard until midway through the second period, when Delta opened the scoring with a goal from Marc Letourneau.
The Ice Hawks threw everything they had at Bruni, outshooting the Flames 22-5 in the third period alone.
Despite the lopsided shots, it was the Flames who would score in the third, with Matthew Bissett capitalizing on a power play to notch his seventh goal of the season, and stretch his point streak to six games.
Bissett’s goal at 12:55 tied the game, and despite Delta’s best efforts, the two teams finished regulation knotted at a goal apiece.
However, the teams would not remain deadlocked for long, as the Ice Hawks scored on their first shot of overtime, just over two minutes into the extra frame, to give them the victory and the Flames a consolation point.
Picking up assists for the Flames were Sean Pesut and Ryan Lisowsky.
Fiset said he was especially happy with the defensive effort of Lisowsky and Max Metzner.
“They must have blocked or deflected 10 or 15 shots each,” he said. “They’re putting their bodies on the line, and that’s what it takes to beat the top teams.
The Flames are still a game below .500, but have managed to pull ahead of Aldergrove, Mission and Port Moody to take sole possession of second place in the Harold Brittain Conference.
With 10 points, the Flames now sit five points behind the conference-leading Abbotsford Pilots, and hold a game in hand.
The Flames will have another difficult challenge this Friday, when the host the North Delta Devils, the hottest team in the PJHL and currently riding a five-game win streak.
Fiset said his team is looking to avenge a 6-1 loss to the Devils last month.
“We had a good first 10 minutes, then we went to sleep for the next 50 and they spanked us pretty bad,” he said. “We’re looking forward to showing them what we can really do.”