There was a mauling at Aldergrove Arena last Wednesday night.
And the Ridge Meadows Flames were still licking their wounds the next morning.
The host Aldergrove Kodiaks built a 4-0 lead on the Flames after 20 minutes of play, added two more tallies in the second period, then made it 7-0 on MacLean Hewitt’s hat trick goal at the 4:23 mark of the third frame.
The teams exchanged two goals each the rest of the way in a 9-2 Kodiaks victory.
The win was Aldergrove’s fourth straight heading into the holiday weekend.
“I didn’t mind the first little bit for us. We were okay right off the jump,” Flames head coach Jamie Fiset said. “It was the second goal that sunk us. Then you could see that we couldn’t recover.”
Flames forward Sean Pesut ended Aldergrove goaltender Mark Menicucci’s shutout bid with a power play goal 6:42 into the third period.
Then, with the score 8-1 Kodiaks, Travis Oddy netted the second Flames goal with 9:25 to play in regulation.
Aldergrove’s Tyson Solotki rounded out the scoring with 5:30 remaining in the game.
The game was scoreless until the 10:47 mark, when Hewitt opened the scoring.
Fourteen seconds later, smooth skating Kodiaks defenceman Stefan Gonzales went end-to-end before rifling home a shot to give Aldergrove a 2-0 advantage.
Then, at the 14:40 mark of the opening frame, Kenny Prato made it 3-0 for the home team when he found the net on a Kodiaks’ powerplay.
Aldergrove’s Ryan Simpson rounded out the first period scoring with 1:10 remaining in the opening frame.
Also scoring for the Kodiaks was Stephan Ryan and Spencer McHaffie.
Sandpaper entered the game at the 14:58 mark of the third period when Flames captain Alex Smith collided with Meniccucci in the goal-crease. Referee Duncan Brow threw the book at Smith, giving him a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct. Menicucci was handed a two-minute minor for roughing.
“They ran our goaltender and it caused a big scene. It’s a classic example of them trying to set up some emotion for the playoffs,” Kodiaks head coach Ron Johnson said. “There’s going to be a rivalry now, for sure.”
Fiset said he didn’t see the play as it materialized.
“Our guy drove the net hard and there was a collision. I didn’t get a good look at it at the time,” Fiset said. “He came out of the corner pretty hard and drove into traffic, and this stuff happens. There was stuff happening on both sides.”
Smooth skating Kodiaks’ defenceman Stefan Gonzales was a dominant force, finishing with a goal and two assists. His first period tally was an end-to-end rush, finished off with a laser beam into the net.
The 20-year-old, who will play for Selkirk College Saints of the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League next season, is the top scoring defenceman in the PJHL.
Prior to joining the Kodiaks, Gonzales played three seasons in the B.C. Hockey League with the Coquitlam Express (2009/10) and Quesnel Millionaires (2010/11).
He split last season between the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Victoria Grizzlies.
“He’s such a fantastic young man,” Johnson said, regarding his ace defenceman. “He’s got lots of power and he skates well.”
The Kodiaks put their four-game winning streak on the line Saturday against the Tom Shaw-conference leading Richmond Sockeyes, who entered the weekend with a PJHL-best 31-8-0-1 record.
Last Wednesday’s win moved the Kodiaks to within five points of the Harold Brittain Conference-leading Abbotsford Pilots, with three games remaining in their season.
However, barring a meltdown down the stretch, Abbotsford appears to have a lock on top spot in the conference.
The Pilots, who possessed a 28-10-0-2 record at press time, had one game in hand on the Kodiaks before the weekend.
So, judging from the standings prior to the holiday weekend, the Pilots will play the fourth-place Mission City Outlaws (7-31-1-2 at press time) while the Kodiaks (26-14-0-1) will face the third-place Flames (14-20-2-5 at press time).
Despite the chasm in points between his team and the Flames, and the fact Aldergrove has won all six regular season meetings between the two rivals, Johnson isn’t taking Ridge Meadows lightly.
This is a Flames team that, prior to Friday, made a 13-point jump from last year, and still had three games left in its season.
“They’re a very skilled hockey team,” he said. “I always believe you should respect your opponent and they’re a good hockey club. We’re going in with our game faces on. We’re looking forward to a good series.”
Before the campaign got underway, Fiset predicted the Flames would meet the Kodiaks in the opening round.
“We’ve been building towards this since the summertime,” he said. “We’ll be ready once the playoffs start.”
Fiset said the Flames have dealt with adversity all season.
“We’re fairly resilient,” Fiset said “That urgency, that extra gear that we’ve been able to tap into just wasn’t there [on Wednesday]. But I know we have the ability to bounce back.”