Rivermen split with Spruce Kings, edged by Clippers
The Langley Rivermen went on the road for a pair of games and traded 6-3 victories with the Prince George Spruce Kings before returning home on Sunday and seeing a comeback bid fall short with a 5-4 loss the Nanaimo Clippers.
The junior A hockey has now dropped four of their past five games but they still hold a five-point lead over the Coquitlam Express for the final playoff spot in the BCHL's Mainland Division with seven games to play. Coquitlam has six games remaining.
In the first game in Prince George on Feb. 14, the Rivermen were ahead 3-0 after 20 minutes thanks to a pair of power-play goals from Mario Puskarich and a single from Mitch McLain.
Evan Campbell made it 4-0 before the Spruce Kings' Bryant Christian got the home side on the board.
McLain with his second and Puskarich with the hat trick goal made it 6-1 and then Prince George's Cameron Lawson and Stephen Penner added a pair of late goals to make the final score respectable.
Mark Whiteley had four assists for Langley while James Barr was sensational between the pipes, stopping 46 of the 49 Prince George shots.
But Friday's rematch saw the Spruce Kings race out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Shayne Morrissey and Jace Hennig.
Lawson made it 3-0 with the only goal of the middle period.
The teams combined for six goals — three apiece — in a wild final 20 minutes.
Jakob Reichert, Puskarich and Campbell scored for the Rivermen while Lawson had two for the hat trick — the final one was into an empty net — while Morrissey had the other goal.
Darren Hogg was tagged with the loss, making 30 saves in the defeat.
Playing back at the Langley Events Centre, the Rivermen came up a goal short to Nanaimo.
The teams were tied at two after one period — Puskarich and Derek Sutliffe for the hosts and Mason Mitchell and Brock Maschmeyer for the visitors.
Nanaimo scored the only goals of the second, with Greg Fraser and Matthew Grant beating Barr.
Campbell got Langley back to within a goal on a power-play marker 7:17 into the third but Mitchell's second of the game restored the two-goal advantage. Puskarich would cut the lead back in half with 63 seconds to go, but that was as close as Langley would come.
The Rivermen will look to get back into the win column this weekend as they host Chilliwack on Feb. 22 at the LEC before hitting the road with a game on Feb. 23 at the Wesbild Centre against the Vernon Vipers.
A nine-point weekend — six goals and three assists — has given Mario Puskarich a six-point lead for the Brett Hull Trophy, which is presented to the league's top scorer.
Puskarich has 37 goals and 75 points through 49 games. His goals are also five ahead of second place.
Sitting third in the overall scoring race is Langley Minor Hockey Association alum Austin Plevy. The Chilliwack Chiefs forward has 68 points.