Sports

Rivermen climb to top of BCHL standings

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The Langley Rivermen have pulled to the top of the BCHL standings as the regular season hits the stretch drive.

The junior A hockey club swept a home-and-home series with the Vernon Vipers over the weekend to push their point-streak to a dozen games as they remain unbeaten in regulation (10-0-1-1) since the calendar flipped to 2014.

The Rivermen won their 10th overtime game of the year, 2-1 over the Vipers on Feb. 7 at the Langley Events Centre, before closing out a 5-2 win at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place the next night.

The results improve Langley to a BCHL-best 32-12-2-5 and 71 points. They are also now ranked eighth in the most recent Canadian Junior Hockey League polls.

“Everyone is just playing to their capability,” said Rivermen coach and general manager Bobby Henderson. “They are a motivated group.”

Gage Torrel scored 1:01 into double overtime in the first game while Brock Crossthwaite stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced.

The team’s other goal was a power-play marker late in the first period from Austin Azurdia while Demico Hannoun responded for the Vipers with 5:26 to play in regulation.

The rematch in Vernon saw the Rivermen score three times in the first period.

Will Cook, Evan Anderson — both on the power play — and Kevan Kilistoff struck in the opening 20 minutes while the Vipers’ Brett Mulcahy responded for the home side.

Liam Coughlin made it 3-2 early in the second — with the Vipers’ second man-advantage goal — but that would be as close as the team got.

Zach Urban doubled the lead to 4-2 four minutes into the third and Marcus Vela scored into the empty net to round out the scoring.

Crossthwaite made 32 saves in goal.

“They decided as a group they wanted to commit to finishing the game out properly, and they did a heck of a job doing it,” Henderson said.

The Rivermen have been remarkably consistent all season.

Since the season began in September, they have only had three three-game winless streaks, and only in one of those three did they fail to at least get either a tie or an overtime point.

“I still think there is more (but) we are getting closer and closer,” Henderson said. “Our special teams are both going, five-on-five there are a couple of areas that we can clean up in, a couple of things within our structure that we need to commit to, but on the whole, we are getting closer.”

Getting complacent shouldn’t be an issue.

“They have had a pretty good mindset all through (the season),” Henderson said.

“They have been focused out of the gate and when we pushed them, they have handled it well.”

The Rivermen have seven games to play and they hold an eight-point advantage over the Prince George Spruce Kings.Prince George — which also holds a game in hand — plays the Rivermen five times over the next three weeks, including Feb. 13 and 14 at the Prince George Coliseum.

The team’s next home game on Feb. 18 against the Coquitlam Express.

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