Rivermen edge Chiefs, split with Spruce Kings
The Langley Rivermen have made it four wins in their past five games after knocking off a pair of division rivals.
The junior A hockey club edged the Chillliwack Chiefs 4-3 on Friday at the Langley Events Centre, before splitting a two-game set with the host Prince George Spruce Kings at the Prince George Coliseum. The Spruce Kings won 4-1 on Saturday night against the road-weary Rivermen — they left Langley after the Chiefs game and drove through the night — before Langley responded with an 8-4 win on Saturday afternoon.
The two victories also clinched a spot in the BCHL Fred Page Cup playoffs for Langley, which will finish fourth in the Mainland Division and face the first-place Surrey Eagles in a best-of-five opening round series.
Against the Chiefs, Ben Butcher spotted Nathan Craft streaking to the net and put a pass right on Craft's stick to beat Mitch Gillam and open the scoring for Langley.
Austin Azurdia made it 2-0 later in the first, burying a rebound off a Derek Sutliffe shot.
But late in the opening frame, with the Chiefs on a two-man advantage, Trevor Hills pounced on a Austin Plevy rebound to put the puck past James Barr.
Langley continued their constant march to the sin bin as they were assessed six straight penalties, but after Mitch McLain was twice denied on short-handed breakaways, Evan Campbell took a pass from Mario Puskarich and broke in all alone and scored to put his team ahead 3-2. The lead was short-lived as Spencer Graboski scored the equalizer on the very next shift.
Langley finally got some power-play chances of their own, and after some nice puck movement, Mark Whitely flicked a long shot from the point through a maze of bodies and into the back of the net for the winner.
Travelling overnight by bus from Langley to Prince George showed as the Rivermen had a slow start on Saturday night.
While the Spruce Kings had their legs and were flying, the Langley player seemed stuck in quicksand.
Prince George's Mark Begert wired home the game's opening goal just three minutes in. And five minutes later, on a power play, the Spruce Kings made it 2-0 courtesy of Shayne Morrissey.
The second period saw Langley find their legs and get back in the game.
Puskarich cut the lead in half taking a feed from Campbell and burying his shot from the slot.
Despite pressure and plenty of opportunities to tie the game, the Rivermen were denied by Kirk Thompson. And then just prior to intermission, Coltyn Hansen wired home a goal to restore the two-goal advantage.
Chad Staley rounded out the scoring in the third period for the 4-1 final score.
Sunday's game saw Langley's offence come to life in an 8-4 victory.
The line of Puskarich, Campbell and Robinson did the bulk of the damage, combining for six goals and 18 points.
Campbell scored twice in the opening 20 minutes, while Puskarich had the other. Jake Lebrun and Justin Rai responded for Prince George.
And after Hansen tied the score at three early in the second with a short-handed goal, Langley took control thanks to a pair of tallies from James Robinson and a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes.
Trevor Cope and Puskarich then scored 59 seconds apart in the first 1:33 of the second. Sutliffe and Mitch Eden traded power-play goals to finish the scoring.
Langley has their regular season home finale tonight (Thursday) against the Chiefs at 7:15 p.m. The two rivals then square off in Chilliwack on Saturday to close the regular season.
The Rivermen's best-of-five playoff series begins at South Surrey Arena with games one and two on March 15 and 16. Game three is at the LEC on March 18. If the series requires game four, it would be at the LEC on March 19. And if a fifth game is necessary, that would be in Surrey on March 20.