The Mission City Outlaws continue to push for third place, after earning three of a possible four points on Saturday and Sunday.
Mission came up with a clutch win over the Ridge Meadows Flames, the team that they trail in the Harold Brittain conference standings, 3-1 at the Mission Leisure Centre on Saturday.
Jackson Waniek opened the scoring at 1:01 of the first period, but the Flames evened the game in the second. Mission then turned it on in the third, with Waniek tallying again, and Nathan McCarnan also scoring.
Mission goalie Matthew Trulsen had another strong night, stopping 35 shots for the win. It was the Maple Ridge product’s eighth win on the season.
Outlaws head coach Brad Veitch said the hot start helped his team.
“Right away, right off the hop, we controlled the game in their zone,” he said. “We battled hard.”
Veitch said one of the keys to the Outlaws’ turnaround has been their improving defensive corps.
“They were really strong tonight, in particular Nik Sourtzis, who was off with an injury earlier. He hadn’t played in awhile but slid right in and made an impact,” he said. “Michael Nemeth is playing with such confidence right now and gave us huge minutes again.”
Trulsen, named the first star against the Flames, said Saturday’s game was another step in development for both himself and the Outlaws’ young defenders.
“We are starting to talk more as a unit,” he said. “We’ve shook off the earlier mishaps and now guys are doing a terrific job. They are clearing guys out from in front. I’m able to see the shot, and it really helps my game. They’ve been great.”
Waniek, named the game’s second star, said Saturday was one of the best efforts he has seen from the Outlaws since joining the club earlier this season.
“I don’t think we’ve seen that kind of effort from us in awhile,” he said. “We had everyone back and we could hear the bench supporting us every time on the ice. I think everyone felt good out there.”
The Outlaws then travelled to Burnaby to take on the Grandview Steelers on Sunday, but fell 2-1 in overtime.
Grandview scored the lone goal of the first period, with Mission’s Justin Bowerman tying the game in the second period.
After a scoreless third period, the Steelers won the game 52 seconds into overtime. Trulsen again had a solid game, making 31 saves.
The Outlaws’ record now stands at 16 wins, 19 losses and four overtime losses, and they are now just two points back of the Flames for third place in the conference. Ridge Meadows has one game in hand, and the Outlaws have five games remaining in the regular season.
A third-place finish means a first round series against the Abbotsford Pilots, while a fourth-place finish will match the Outlaws with the Steelers.
Mission next travels to Abbotsford for a game tonight (Friday), and then returns home to host the Port Moody Panthers on Saturday. Faceoff is set for 6:45 p.m. at the Mission Leisure Centre.