The big day is finally here! The Rivermen will break the seal on another season of hockey at the Langley Events Centre when they welcome the Alberni Valley Bulldogs tonight.
These two teams faced off against each other in the BCHL Showcase on September 7th in a game the Rivermen won handily 7-3. However that has been the only win for the ‘men to date, albeit they have only played two games since in what has been a very light schedule so far. The ‘Dogs on the other hand have won two out of their last three games and sit third in the Island Division with five points. They are in the midst of a mainland road trip that sees them play three games in three days. The ‘Dogs were in Coquitlam last night and took a tough 6-2 loss to the hands of the Express. They have struggled away from home to kick off the season and will enter the Langley Events Centre tonight looking for their first road win.
The Rivermen are fresh and have been patiently waiting since last Friday to get back to action. The players are anxious to finally play in their home rink, especially the new guys who have yet to step on the ice for a game at the LEC. The team will get a big boost to the line-up as Evan Campbell will make his season debut after missing the first three games due to injury. Expect the gritty winger to slot into the top line with Butcher and Puskarich right away. Maybe Campbell will be just what last years team MVP will need to break out and score his first of the season tonight in front of the home crowd. Also looking to get on the board will be Jakob Reichert and Mitch McLain. Those two will play with each other tonight with Scott Moyer at centre. It is no secret that both of them have been squeezing the stick a bit too much out of the gates, but don’t expect it to last too much longer as they are determined to snap out of it in a big way. Cope and Robinson will get a new line mate tonight in Austin Azurdia. “A-Z” has been phenomenal registering a point in each game so far and will add a nice dimension to that line. Sutliffe, Ustaski, and Greiner will round out the forward lines if you want to even call that a fourth line. Looking at the forward group tonight, the depth is spread out through lines 1-4. That makes it easy on the coaching staff as they will not hesitate to use any one of those lines in any situation during the game. Expect James Barr to get the start tonight. He will look to bounce back after suffering a 6-5 OT loss to PG in his last appearance on September 9th.
The Bulldogs have very good top end talent up front that consists of the BCHL scoring leader and reigning player of the week in Lars Hepso. Although he was held in check last night, he still leads the BCHL with seven goals in five games and 10 points overall. Not far behind him is captain Ryan Lough who sits in second place with nine points and just three points back of him is 17-year-old skater Evan Tironese. It will be imperative that the Rivermen shut those three down in particular or else it could be a long night for the home team as they possess a high amount of speed and skill.
I encourage all of Langley to come out to the LEC tonight and support the hometown team. Loads of hard work has been put in over the summer on and off the ice as the team has been at various community events not only promoting the team, but this night in particular. In last season’s home opener there were over 3100 people in the building to watch a new era of Junior “A” hockey in Langley and I really hope we can top that number tonight. It will be a special evening with a nice pre-game ceremony planned, so make sure you are in your seat by 7:10!
The game can be seen live at http://www.fasthockey.com and for free audio visit http://www.ustream.tv/channel/langley-rivermen-hockey .