Azurdia leads way as Langley Rivermen show flair for the dramatic

Langley Rivermen forward Austin Azurdia (#11) proved to be tough to handle for the Prince George Spruce Kings on the weekend. Azurdia scored four times and set up one other as Langley won twice at the expense of the visiting Spruce Kings. - Miranda Gathercole/Langley Times
Langley Rivermen forward Austin Azurdia (#11) proved to be tough to handle for the Prince George Spruce Kings on the weekend. Azurdia scored four times and set up one other as Langley won twice at the expense of the visiting Spruce Kings.
— image credit: Miranda Gathercole/Langley Times

The Langley Rivermen continue to show some late-game magic.

The Rivermen rallied for a third-period comeback in one game, while in the next, they scored a buzzer-beater with one second remaining to secure another two points. Combined with a third-period comeback and overtime victory in their previous game and the junior A hockey club has won three straight with late-game scores.

Leading the way was Austin Azurdia, who scored four of Langley’s seven goals and set up one other. He was named the BCHL player of the week for his efforts.

The two most recent wins, which improved the Rivermen to 5-2-0-1 on the season,  came at the Langley Events Centre and both had the Prince George Spruce Kings as the opponent.

While head coach Bobby Henderson said his team could do without needing late-game heroics, they are happy with the end result.

“At the end of the day, four points at home, we are happy,” he said.

He was also happy with the team’s effort, noting they got contributions from all four lines, the entire defence corps and both goalies.

The Rivermen also were disciplined, Henderson added.

“All in all, some good things happened,” he summed up.

As for the play of Azurdia, Henderson called it the next step in the winger’s development.

“With his skating ability, he is dangerous,” Henderson said.

On the weekend, the BCHL rookie scored a pair of short-handed goals and also had the game winner in each victory.

He leads Langley with six goals and has nine points (second on the team) through eight games.

“Being an undersized guy, he has been impressive,” Henderson said. “He is not afraid to go into the tough areas.”

In the opener, Prince George led 1-0 after 40 minutes on a first-period goal from Coltyn Hansen, who shoved home a loose rebound past James Barr.

Azurdia tied the score at one with a short-handed beauty.

Azurdia stole the puck in his own zone, raced down the ice and made a slick move past goaltender Kirk Thompson to knot the score at one.

The Spruce Kings regained the lead shortly after, however, as Tyson Witala fired home a shot from the slot on another Prince George power play.

Azurdia struck less than five minutes remaining as he took a pass from down low from Bo Pellah and fired home his second of the game.

And then with less than three minutes to go, Langley got its first lead of the game as Derek Sutliffe tipped home Jakob Reichert’s snap shot.

Barr made 19 saves for the win.

In Sunday’s matinee, Trevor Cope, Matt Ustaski and Azurdia — with another short-handed effort — staked the Rivermen to a 3-0 lead in the game’s first dozen minutes.

Cope swatted a loose puck that hit a defender and went in while Ustaski banged home a puck on a Langley power play. Azurdia’s goal chased starting goalie Liam McLeod from the net.

Prince George got one goal back courtesy of a Bradley Ryan score on a two-man advantage.

From there, it looked like the Rivermen were going to sail to the 3-1 victory. But with less than three minutes to go, the Spruce Kings’ Justin Rai scored twice in a 55-second span to tie the game.

With overtime looming, Azurdia had different plans, as he made a spectacular toe-drag move around the defender and roofed the puck top corner with 0.3 seconds left on the clock.

Goaltender Darren Hogg made 32 saves for the win.

Langley plays at the Chilliwack Chiefs on Oct. 10 before a home-and-home series against the West Kelowna Warriors.

The teams play at the LEC on Oct. 12 before travelling to West Kelowna on Oct. 13.

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