On Friday, a much-needed blip suddenly popped up on what had been, up until recently, a flatlining Ridge Meadows Flames' heart monitor screen.
Down 2-0 in games in their best-of-seven, Pacific International Junior Hockey League playoff series with the Aldergrove Kodiaks, the Flames stirred back to life at Planet Ice Maple Ridge.
Heading into the weekend, the Kodiaks - who finished on top of the PIJHL's Harold Brittain Conference's regular season standings with a 28-13-2-1 record - had outscored the Flames 14-5 during the previous two contests.
Ridge Meadows got back into the series by beating the visiting Kodiaks 5-2.
This could be categorized as an upset. The Flames ended up fourth in the Harold Brittain with an 11-32-1-0 record and had yet to beat the Kodiaks in both regular season and playoffs heading into the game.
"We went in and played a full 60-minute game," Flames' head coach Jamie Fiset said. "The coaching staff is really proud of players for stepping up to the plate. This was a real gutsy effort."
Kodiaks' head coach Tim Preston credited the Flames for playing inspirational hockey.
"They played hard, for sure," Preston said. "We never anticipated that we'd sweep them but the message we're sending to our guys is that we need to win four games. They battled us physically. They are a desperate team and have some players who will hurt you when you're not disciplined."
Speaking of discipline, the Flames' cashed in on two of five powerplay opportunities.
"That was the difference in the game, right there," Preston said. "We have to play our game and the biggest thing for us is staying out of the [penalty] box. They have a good powerplay with some skilled guys up front and good defencemen. If we get into penalty trouble, that's when they can hurt us."
Ridge Meadows led 2-0 late in the second period on goals from Marco Ballarin (in the opening frame) and Paul Piluso on a powerplay before Aldergrove stormed back to tie the score with markers off the sticks of Scott McHaffie and Matthew Luongo.
Keagan Hunter gave the Flames a 3-2 lead with his team's second powerplay goal of the night.
Hunter's marker came with 26 seconds remaining in the second period.
Flames' sniper Matthew Bissett then notched what turned out to be a backbreaking goal 27 seconds into the third stanza, to make it 4-2 for the home team.
Then, with Kodiaks goaltender Ross Baadsvik pulled for the extra attacker, Hunter deposited the puck into the empty net for his second of the night to seal the Flames' victory. Ridge Meadows' fifth goal came with a second left in regulation time.
Fiset said Friday's win should do wonders for Ridge Meadows' confidence.
"In the first two games, we gave them way too many chances," Fiset said. "It's up to us to take those chances away, and we did that. We kept them under 30 shots against, we were blocking shots, and we were clearing shots for our goalie. It all came together."
Fiset said the win is confirmation for both the Flames' players and coaching staff that, "we can compete with anybody in the league if we put our minds to it."
Over the weekend, the Flames had two days to enjoy the victory; the Kodiaks had two days to think about it. Fiset said the short break was a good thing.
"I think at this time of the year, guys get run down and tired," he said. "It's been a pretty emotional week with three [playoff] games right away. Having an extra day off between games will help us."
Kodiaks 6, Flames 3
The Kodiaks took a two-games-to-none lead in the series by doubling the Flames Wednesday at Aldergrove Arena.
Leading 3-2, the Kodiaks took over during the final stanza.
Back-to-back goals from Luongo and Matthew Lloyd, scored 1:17 apart, put the Kodiaks ahead 5-2.
After the Flames' Adam Bartsch scored to narrow the deficit to 5-3, Jordan Pughe scored his second of the night to re-establish the Kodiaks' three-goal lead.
A goal from Colton Precourt gave the Kodiaks a 1-0 lead after the first period.
In the second period, the Flames moved ahead 2-1 on goals from Bissett and Reece Rivard, before Pughe tied the game at the 18:11 mark.
Aldergrove's Spencer McHaffie scored with two seconds remaining in the period to give Aldergrove momentum heading into the final frame.
The teams met last night (March 5) at Planet Ice in game four of the series. The game was played after the Langley Advance went to press Monday afternoon.
On Monday morning, Preston said winning game four was vital for the Kodiaks to get their momentum back.
"We want to regain control of the series," the head coach said. "That's what we're focused on right now."
Game five is Wednesday, March 7, at Aldergrove Arena with a 7:15 p.m. opening faceoff.
If necessary, game six will be played Thursday, March 8, at Planet Ice, starting at 9 p.m.