The Ridge Meadows Flames are one of the hottest teams in the Pacific Junior Hockey League this preseason, and coach Jamie Fiset hopes the team’s winning ways continue once regular season play gets underway next week.
The Flames are 3-1-1 after five preseason games and have outscored their opponents 25-14 in that span.
While Fiset admits many of the games came against struggling opposition, the wins have given his team a boost heading into the regular season.
“We are happy with how things are progressing,” he said. “We’re out-skating teams, out-shooting teams, and out-scoring teams, and that builds confidence.”
That wasn’t the case last season, when the Flames struggled to compete most nights. The 2011/12 Flames managed just 11 wins in 44 games, starting the season with an eight-game losing streak.
However, a combination of off-season acquisitions and returning veterans have given Fiset and the Flames high hopes for this season.
“We’re bigger, faster, and stronger than we were last season,” said Fiset. “I think we’ll see a very electrifying product on the ice this year.”
Leading the team in preseason scoring is rookie forward Chris Nakamura, a 17-year-old from the Hollyburn midget A1 program.
“We were very pleased to pick up Chris this offseason,” said Fiset. “He’s fast, he works hard every single game, he scores, and he hits.”
Alongside Nakamura on the team’s top line to start the season will be returning 20-year-old veteran forward Adam Bartsch, as well as 16-year-old rookie Mitch Plevy.
Alex Smith, Marco Balarin and Paul Piluso have all returned to provide scoring depth for the Flames.
“A lot of our guys returned in great shape and ready to play,” said Fiset. “I’m pleased with how they’ve responded to the challenge we’ve given them.
The end result is the Flames will be able to roll four lines and score with any of them on the ice.
“That wasn’t the case last season,” said Fiset.
Anchoring the defense will be former major midget player Nick Cultura, along with returning veteran Corey Dubbeldam.
Returning in net will be Wesley McLeod, along with rookie goalie RJ Bruni.
The Flames start the PJHL regular season this Wednesday, Sept. 12 on the road against the Aldergrove Kodiaks, before returning home for their home opener on Friday, Sept. 14, against the Mission City Outlaws at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge. Game time is 7:30 p.m.