By the end of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League's regular season, the Aldergrove Kodiaks were 36 points clear of the Ridge Meadows Flames.
Judging from that stat, and the fact Ridge Meadows won just 11 times during the 44-game campaign and had yet to beat Aldergrove this season, all signs pointed to a possible Kodiaks' sweep in their best-of-seven, opening round playoff series.
But the junior B Flames didn't play like an 11-32-0-1 team. The team from north of the Fraser River made the Kodiaks claw to their series victory.
The Kodiaks - who topped the PIJHL's Harold Brittain Conference with a 28-13-1-2 mark - finally stamped out the Flames for good Thursday at Planet Ice Maple Ridge.
Aldergrove's 2-1 win gave the Kodiaks a four-games-to-two victory, and catapults them into the Harold Brittain playoff final against the Abbotsford Pilots.
"You want to win every series," Flames' head coach Jamie Fiset said. "But a month ago, people were questioning whether or not we'd even make the playoffs, let alone take the third-best team in the league to six games, so that's an accomplishment."
An unassisted goal from Aldergrove's Daniel Higgs with 10: 29 to go in the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and turned out to be the game winner.
"I thought we battled really hard, and Ridge Meadows played very, very well," Kodiaks' head coach Tim Preston said. "They didn't want to go away, and a lot of credit goes to them and their coaching staff for that. We did whatever we could to get the job done. It was a hard fought, close game."
Ridge Meadows' Sean Pesut opened the scoring with a powerplay goal at the 7: 25 mark of the opening frame.
A little more than four minutes later, the Kodiaks responded with a man advantage marker of their own, off the stick of Brandon Potomak.
With so much on the line, both teams showed good discipline.
The Flames had just two minor penalties called against them all night while the Kodiaks were whistled for five minors.
"I think one of the bigger [factors] was the score," Preston said. "When it's 1-1, the guys have to make sure they're very focused.
Both teams were extremely disciplined and well coached, and neither team wanted to give the other the advantage."
One indication of how well the Flames' played was the first star selection. Aldergrove goaltender Ross Baadsvik made 26 saves and received the nod as No. 1 star.
"He was outstanding," Preston said. "He was a big reason why we won that game."
"We put a lot of pressure on him [Baadsvik] and he made some big saves," Fiset said. "At the end of the day, they scored a goal off a rebound on a scramble in front and we hit two posts."
At the other end of the ice, Flames' puckstopper Wesley McLeod stopped 28 of 30 pucks and earned second star of the game honours.
Flames 4, Kodiaks 2
Last Wednesday at Aldergrove Arena, the Flames staved off elimination by upsetting the Kodiaks 4-2.
Asked if discipline factored into Ridge Meadows' success in game five, Fiset answered, "That's an understatement."
Ridge Meadows accomplished its goals of scoring first and after that, Fiset said, "we played a pretty simple game."
The head coach added that the Flames' lethal line "was our top line."
Pesut tallied a hat trick, while Danny Brandys had three helpers and Matthew Bissett recorded a pair of assists.
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period.
Ridge Meadows led 2-1 after 40 minutes of play and then moved ahead 3-1 on Pesut's hat trick goal, scored 3: 20 into the final frame.
Alex Feighan brought Aldergrove to within one with a powerplay goal at the 8: 32 mark of the third period.
Then, with 1: 14 remaining in regulation time, Adam Bartsch sealed the victory for Ridge Meadows by scoring the Flames' fourth goal.
. . .
The Kodiaks had the weekend to enjoy the series victory, and that was it.
They returned to action last night (March 12) when they hosted the Pilots in the opening game of their best-of-seven series.
The game got underway after the Advance went to press.
Game two is this coming Wednesday, 7: 15 p.m. at Aldergrove Arena.