Sports

Langley Rivermen rock Express twice, climb back into playoff race

Langley Rivermen
Langley Rivermen's Austin Azurdia slips the puck past Coquitlam Express goaltender Cole Huggins during the Rivermen's 7-4 victory at the Langley Events Centre.
— image credit: Miranda Gathercole/Langley Times

A home-and-home sweep of the Coquitlam Express has the Langley Rivermen back in the hunt for a playoff spot.

The Rivermen filled the net with 13 goals — winning 6-1 at Coquitlam's Poirier Sports Complex on Dec. 28 and 7-1 the next night at the Langley Events Centre — to pull within a point of the Express for the fourth and final playoff spot in the BCHL's Mainland Division. Langley also has two games in hand.

Ben Butcher and Derek Sutliffe scored 19 seconds apart in the opening period in the first game before Coquitlam's Philip Zielonka cut the lead in half prior to intermission. But that would be he only puck to elude James Barr, the game's first star, who made 46 saves.

James Robinson made it 3-1 in the second before Mario Puskarich, Mitch McLain and Evan Campbell tallied in the third.

Puskarich also added a pair of assists while Jakob Reichert set up three goals.

The rematch got off to a fast start as the teams combined for six goals in the opening 20 minutes, four of which came from the Rivermen.

Austin Azurdia, Butcher and Puskarich chased Coquitlam goalie Cole Huggins from the game with goals in the first 13 minutes. That sparked the Express as Zachary Pryzbek and Zielonka scored for the visitors, but with 29 seconds to go in the period, Logan Smith made it 4-2.

John Siemer had the lone goal in the second to make it 4-3 but Azurdia and Reichert gave the Rivermen a three-goal cushion. Siemer and Sutliffe traded goals to end the game.

Evan Anderson picked up three helpers and Barr made another 40 saves to pick up the victory.

The victories wrap up the team's most successful stretch of the season as they closed December with four victories, a tie and an overtime loss in their past eight games.

They have gotten back into the playoff race thanks to a high-powered offence which leads the entire junior A league in goals for with an average of 3.45 goals per game. Leading the way is Puskarich who had five points in the two games and  sits atop the BCHL scoring race with with 24 goals and 49 points.

Langley returns to action on Jan. 5 when they visit the Mainland Division-leading Chilliwack Chiefs. The Rivermen also host the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Jan. 6 at the LEC for a 2 p.m. game.

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