The Langley Rivermen and Surrey Eagles both recorded home ice victories in a home and home set on Friday and Saturday night. It was the first taste of pre-season hockey for both teams and the home team won convincingly in both games.
The Eagles first played host to the Rivermen on Friday night at the South Surrey Arena to kick off the exhibition schedule. On the Langley side, the coaching staff iced a very young and inexperienced squad in order to have a good look at the young players who still remained. The Eagles on the other hand had many veterans in the game including Brandon Morley, Michael Stenerson, Colton Mackie, and Trevor Cameron. In fact the Rivermen had just one returning player in the game and that was Bo Pellah. However, he was not the only one with BCHL experience under his belt on the Rivermen side as former Eagle Conor Barrie got the start against his former team. Unfortunately for him, his return to the Eagles nest did not go as planned as he let two goals past him in the first period as the ‘Birds took a 2-0 lead into the second. The Eagles veterans continued to take it to the youthful Rivermen as they scored two more in the middle frame and made it a 4-0 strangle hold after 40 minutes. The third period was a better effort from the ‘Men, but could not put one past the Surrey netminder on a couple of power play opportunities as the Eagles scored one more to skate away with a 5-0 win.
Roles were reversed Saturday night at the Langley Sportsplex, as it was the Rivermen’s turn to play the ‘vets against an inexperienced Eagles team. The likes of Mario Puskarich, Thomas Nitsche, Jakob Reichert, Evan Campbell, Ben Griener, Derek Sutliffe, Scott Moyer, and Valik Chichkin were all in the lineup for this one. James Barr got the start in-goal. The home team got off to a fast start as Mario Puskarich banged home a rebound just 14 seconds in to notch the first pre-season goal of the year. The Florida native did a good job of driving hard to the net and follow a Ben Greiner shot to give the Rivermen the early lead. The Puskarich tally did not last long however as the Eagles answered right back with a goal of their own in which was also a rebound marker. The tandem of Moyer and Sutliffe got the Rivermen lead back shortly after as Moyer buried a shot past Eagles netminder Edward Dyson top corner on a pretty give and go with Sutliffe in the slot. That goal seemed to energize the entire Rivermen squad as most of the remaining period was played in the Eagles end. In the dying minutes of the first period, Scott Moyer added another one as he made no mistake on a beautiful cross ice pass from 16-year-old defenseman Viktor Dombrovskiy. The slick play making Dombrovskiy will be a name you will hear frequently this season as he has all the tools to be a household name in this league. After 20 minutes, the Rivermen held a 3-1 lead and out shot Surrey 21-12. The returnees kicked it up a notch in the second period and this time it was Derek Sutliffe’s turn to get in the goal column. The Las Vegas native was the beneficiary of a sweet behind the net feed from Trevor Cope and just like that it was 4-1. Cope has been a stand out ever since training camp started on Monday. He seems to do it all out on the ice whether it is finishing checks, setting up teammates or scoring goals. He may start in the bottom six, but may not last long in that capacity if he keeps playing like this. Speaking of stand outs, Mitch McLain arguably might be the best player since the start of the week. I would be willing to bet that he has scored at least a goal in every game he has participated in this week and he continued the trend in the second period. The Minnesotan showed great drive and determination on a Rivermen power play as he grabbed a loose rebound at the side of the net and stuffed in a wrap around to make it a 5-1 game. Like the coaching staff, I am really excited for this kid. Every time he is on the ice, something seems to happen. I would be shocked if he didn’t have a scholarship by at least November he is that good.The Rivermen closed out the second stanza in style scoring their fifth straight goal courtesy of Jakob Reichert. Reichert swept the puck blindly from the corner hoping to connect with a line mate in the slot, instead banked off the Surrey goaltender and into the back of the net. I could just as easy make a case for Reichert being the best player since camp opened up on Monday. The big forward has looked like a man against boys at times as he has used his big frame very well to his advantage and also has a very nice set of hands to go along with it.
In the third period, the coaches decided to give Barr the rest of the night off and play 16-year-old Matt Rud. The youngster looked sharp early on making some early stops to get into the game and overall held his own very well. Although he did allow a goal a few minutes in, his teammates picked up right where they left off as McLain buried his second of the night on a 2 on 1 that he kept the whole way and snuck it fivehole to make it a 7-2. After the Eagles made it 7-3, Scott Moyer capped off the hat trick on a pin point shot in the slot on a play set up by Sutliffe and Dolby. Make it an 8-3 final.
The coaching staff might have some sleepless nights coming up with some tough decisions on the horizon. Certain players have made their case to crack a roster spot on opening night, but the pre-season is not even halfway over with three more games to go. Next up for the Rivermen is a Monday night affair in Coquitlam at 7PM where they will look to make it a 2-1 record in exhibition play.