The Ridge Meadows Flames picked an ideal time to notch their first win of 2012/13 against the Aldergrove Kodiaks.
Heading into their Pacific Junior Hockey League playoff opener Monday at Aldergrove Arena, the Kodiaks had won all six regular season meetings with their Ridge Meadows rivals.
The Flames beat the Kodiaks when it mattered most, skating to a 4-3 double overtime victory to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.
On a Flames' powerplay, Matthew Bissett notched the winner 1: 36 into the second overtime period. Sixteen seconds after Aldergrove's Stephen Ryan went to the penalty box for high sticking, Bissett snapped a shot over the glove of Kodiaks' goaltender Mark Menicucci.
"Their best players were their best players and we didn't finish our checking assignments," Kodiaks head coach Ron Johnson said. "We didn't get bounces early. If you don't get enough bounces, you don't win."
Going into the game, the odds seemed stacked against the Flames. Not only did the Kodiaks own the season series, there was a huge divide in points between the two teams in the Harold Brittain Conference standings.
The Kodiaks finished second in the conference (behind the 32-10-0-2 Abbotsford Pilots) with a 28-15-0-1 record, while the Flames were 18 points back of Aldergrove, at 16-21-2-5.
But all that gets thrown away come playoff time.
"All along I said the games we had against them [the Kodiaks] were frustrating because we knew we knew we could play better," Flames' head coach Jamie Fiset said. "It was nice that we finally executed a game plan start to finish and were rewarded for it."
Johnson said the teams mirror each other in many ways. Ultimately, he said, it's all about execution.
"Playoffs is a new season - it's what you do now that matters," he said. "The team that adapts best wins."
The game was scoreless after two periods, thanks to the impressive play of Flames' goaltender Wesley McLeod.
The floodgates opened in the third frame. The teams scored three goals apiece, even though the Kodiaks' threw 24 shots on goal to the Flames' nine.
Ridge Meadows actually led 3-2 late in regulation, and the Kodiaks needed a goal from Scott McHaffie with 59 seconds to go in the third period to tie the game and send it into overtime. The goal was his second of the period.
Fiset knows that McLeod, who was named second star of the game, was a huge factor as the Kodiaks outshot the Flames 63-31.
"He was solid when things were shaky and he was always there to make the save," Fiset said. "The guys drew from that and played inspired hockey."
"Their goaltender was outstanding and their team played with a lot of emotion," Johnson said. "We have to play with more determination and emotion, for sure."
"We talked about it before the playoffs started and we all agreed that we seemed to play our worst hockey against those guys this year," Fiset said. "For some reason we always came up with bad nights against them. They are such a good team, they make you pay for bad nights."
The Flames will be following the motto of playing with controlled emotion.
"We want the players to play with emotion but we want them to be smart," Fiset said. "When you have that nice balance of being emotional and intelligent, good things happen."
The teams met for game two last night (Feb. 20) at Aldergrove Arena. The game got underway after The TIMES went to press.
Games three and four go Friday and Saturday at Planet Ice. Friday's game gets underway at 7: 30 p.m. Saturday's game has a 7: 45 p.m. opening puck drop.