On the eve of the start of the BCHL playoffs, there is no magic formula for playoff success.
“We just have to play to our capability,” said Langley Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson.
“We have shown flashes throughout the season of what we are capable of and now it is putting it all together.”
The Rivermen finished third in the Mainland Division with a record of 31-22-3-2 and 67 points.
That was nine points back of the BCHL’s newest team, the Wenatchee Wild who finished second at 34-16-4-4 and 76 points.
“It shapes up to be a good series. They are a good skating team,” Henderson said about the Wild. “They play with a lot of pace and transition well. We have to make sure we are committed to playing defence, below the puck in piles, and make sure that we are supporting the puck all over the ice.
“And not just matching their pace, but pushing the pace.”
The teams were close in goals with Langley scoring 212 while Wenatchee was just behind them at 206. But goals against were significantly in the Wild’s favour as they allowed 147 compared to Langley’s 187.
In fact, Wenatchee’s 2.53 goals against average was second in the entire league.
The Rivermen had nine players hit double digits in goals, and five of those had 20 or more.
Matthew Graham and Justin Fregona tied for the team lead with 24 goals apiece. Graham was also the club’s top point-getter with 66.
Ten Wenatchee players had 10 or more goals, but only two of those 10 had 20 or more goals.
Langley was 1-2-1-2 over the teams’s six head-to-head games during the regular season and the Rivermen only managed to score more than three goals once, in a 4-4 in the regular season finale.
The Wild power play connected on 18.6 per cent of its chances (49-for-264) while Langley operated at 16.3 per cent (42-for-231). Both were in the bottom half of the league. The league average was 20.1 per cent.
Wenatchee also had the league’s best penalty kill with an .867 penalty kill percentage. They were the only team in the league to allow less than 30 power-play goals, surrendering 27 in 203 chances.
The Rivermen were 15th in penalty kills as the opposition scored on one of four four chances during the season. Langley allowed 58 goals on 241 chances.
But the playoffs are a whole new story.
“As long as we are competing hard and playing physical and doing things like blocking shots and finishing checks, it should allow us to have success against them,” Henderson said.
Rivermen captain Jordan Schneider said the key will be sticking to the game plan, playing physical and getting contributions from throughout the line-up.
“We’ve had the most success when all four lines are competing and doing their job every shift,” he said.
Back in September, Henderson admitted he wasn’t sure how the season would unfold.
“Coming into the season, we were a little bit young and I knew we were going to be light compared to what we have been in the past,” he said. “But our team showed a real willingness to play a gritty game. And in the playoffs, you have to play that way, a seven-game grind-it-out series.”
The series gets underway in Wenatchee with games one and two on March 5 and 6 at the Toyota Town Center.
“The guys are extremely excited,” Schneider said.
The team has not played since facing Wenatchee on Feb. 23 to close out the regular season. The Wild last played Feb. 27.
“I think especially with the week and a half we’ve had off, the excitement has just sort of built up around the rink and we are excited to get started.”
After this weekend, the series shifts to Langley for games three and four — and if necessary — game five on March 8, 9 and 11, respectively.
Should it go beyond that, games six and seven would be back in Wenatchee on March 13 and 14 as The teams opted for the two-three-two format rather than the traditional two-two-one-one-one format.
The Rivermen home games will be at the George Preston Recreation Centre instead of the Langley Events Centre as the LEC is hosting four provincial basketball championships March 9 to 12.