The Aldergrove Kodiaks are one win away from grounding the Abbotsford Pilots for good, and in the process, punching their ticket to the Pacific Junior Hockey League championship series.
A 4-3 double overtime win Sunday night at the Mission Leisure Centre gave the Kodiaks a three games to one lead in the best-of-seven, Harold Brittain Conference championship series.
If the Kodiaks can win tonight (March 12) at Abbotsford's MSA Arena, the Pilots' season will be over.
If that happens, Aldergrove will move to play the winner of the Tom Shaw Conference playoff champion for the PJHL title.
On Sunday night, Kodiaks defenceman Stefan Gonzales sniped the winner 3:33 into the second overtime period. The goal was set up by Ryan Veillet and Kenny Prato.
Kodiaks in control of series
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After Kodi Schwarz opened the scoring on a Kodiaks man advantage 9:02 into the game, the Pilots scored back-to-back power play markers to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Schwarz's goal came 43 seconds after Abbotsford's Devon Allenby was handed a five-minute penalty for charging, and was tossed from the game.
The Kodiaks' Ryan Ziadie tied the score 4:30 into the second period.
Abbotsford moved ahead 3-2 on Michael Tebbutt's second of the night at the 4:18 mark of the final frame. The goal was the Pilots' third power play goal of the night.
Aldergrove's Spencer McHaffie tied the game with 4:56 to play in regulation time.
Even though the Kodiaks finished the regular season with a stellar 28-15-0-1 record and disposed of the Ridge Meadows Flames in five games in their opening round series, they entered the second round as the underdog.
That's because the Pilots topped the Harold Brittain with a 32-10-0-2 mark and swept the Mission City Outlaws in four straight games in their first round series.
And things didn't look good for the Kodiaks early on, after the Pilots trounced them 8-1 in the series opener.
But the Kodiaks kept their composure and won the next three games of the series to put the Pilots teetering on the precipice of elimination.
"They're a very, very good hockey team with a lot of skill play, very physical, and they've got good goaltending," Kodiaks' head coach Ron Johnson said, describing the Pilots.
He added, "Who understands this game? We've won the last three games in a row and no one in the hockey world would have predicted that."
Johnson said he's proud of the way his team has responded, not only after the game one debacle, but against a Pilots team he calls "borderline dirty."
"We know they are going to be a physical presence to a point where they are trying to physically intimidate us," Johnson said. "Theirs is a very simple game plan. They'll physically try to control the game."
Kodiaks 5, Pilots 4
Rookie forward Brandon Dolby scored 7:58 into the second overtime period to give the Kodiaks a 5-4 win Friday at MSA Arena.
The goal capped an impressive comeback for the Kodiaks, who fell behind 3-1 after Abbotsford's Luke Venema scored at the 12:05 mark of the middle frame.
The Kodiaks stormed back to tie the game on power play goals from Prato with 4:24 to go in the second period and Ryan Simpson 3:12 into the third stanza.
A power play goal from Abbotsford's Dakota Schipper restored the Pilots' one-goal lead with 9:48 remaining in regulation.
The Kodiaks evened the score less than two minutes later on a goal from Stephen Ryan.
Gonzales scored Aldergrove's lone first period marker and assisted on the Kodiaks' fourth goal of the game.
Prato led the Kodiaks with a goal and two assists.
Kodiaks 4, Pilots 2
The Kodiaks rebounded nicely from their embarrassing loss in the series opener on March 5.
Last Wednesday at Aldergrove Arena, the hosts received a 29-save performance from Mark Menicucci to even the series at a game apiece.
The Kodiaks' Adam Callegari scored twice, including the final goal of the night into the empty net with 46 seconds remaining in regulation.
Aldergrove captain Daniel Higgs scored the lone goal of the first period, and his teammate MacLean Hewitt made it 2-0 Kodiaks when he found the net 28 seconds into the second period.
Midway through the second period, Abbotsford narrowed the margin to 2-1 on a goal from Christopher Vinette.
The last two minutes of the frame was filled with action. With the Kodiaks' Tyson Solotki off for hooking, Callegari scored an unassisted shorthanded goal to restore Aldergrove's two-goal cushion.
But on the same powerplay, the Pilots came within one as Adam Rossi scored, just 11 seconds after Callegari's goal.
The Kodiaks not only kept the Pilots off the scoresheet during the third period, they outshot the visitors 15-9.