The Langley Rivermen are set to embark on their first interior road trip of the season that starts in Merritt at the cozy Nicola Valley Arena tonight. It marks the first interior division opponent this season for the ‘Men and I want to personally thank the BCHL schedule makers for getting the Merritt game out-of-the-way early on in the season. There is nothing like walking into that building on a cold winter’s night in December or January let me tell ya, and that is even wearing an extra layer or two!
Both teams will enter tonight’s contest with similar records. They both have played four games and have an even amount of points with five. The Rivermen are coming off their biggest win of the season in a 7-0 blowout over Alberni Valley on Saturday, while the Centennials have recorded at least a point in their last three games. On paper tonight’s match-up should be a very interesting one to say the least. The Rivermen have shown they can put the puck in the net so far scoring the most goals in the Mainland division with 21. On the other side of the coin, Merritt isn’t the highest scoring team, but they have allowed the least amount of goals in the Interior division with nine. The specials teams category will be something to keep an eye on tonight as well. Right now the Centennials have the best power play in the league currently working at a 38.89% ratio, while their penalty kill sits second allowing only a single goal against in 20 opposition power plays. The Rivermen are no slouch either as their power play is in fourth place scoring 8/31 times on the man advantage with three of those goals coming last game in the home opener. These two teams played against eachother in pre-season action on August 28th in Merritt and it was a very entertaining game that ended in a 5-5 tie.
Who to watch for:
Langley: How about the entire line of Puskarich, Butcher, and Campbell. The trio combined for a total of 14 points on Saturday night and were dominant throughout the entire 60 minutes. Ben Butcher leads the team in goals with five, while Puskarich has been the set up man thus far tied for the team lead in assists with five. While those three have been getting most of the attention, Trevor Cope and Austin Azurdia are currently riding four game point streaks into the game tonight. Both of the import forwards have been fantastic since game one at the Showcase and have really have done a great job of adapting to the BCHL game. Jakob Reichert will enter into some familiar territory tonight as he is set to play his former team for the first time in regular season action. Before this season, Reichert played 104 games in a Centennials uniform recording 53 points and so far has not gotten off to the start he would have hoped for. If there was a time to score his first of the season, it would be pretty neat if he did it tonight against his old club.
Merritt: 17 year-old rookie blue-liner Dane Birks has been the story for the Centennials through four games. He currently leads the team with six points and has played one less game than his teammates. It is not often you see a rookie defenseman come into the BCHL and do what he is doing so far. Another guy that is doing well is former Rivermen player Sebastien Pare. He leads all forwards with five points and seems to be fitting in quite well to the new environment. It is great to see him doing so well as “C-Bass” is a great kid and was a pleasure to deal with last year. Three more guys to watch for will be Regan Sequila, Derek Huisman and goaltender Tyler Steel. Sequila led the team with 70 points last year and is due to break out at anytime. Huisman was a 30 goal man with Chilliwack last year, and Steel is coming off a 15 win season between the pipes a year ago.
Where to tune in?
The game can be seen live at www.fasthockey.com. I understand there has been some audio troubles on the “Away” feed recently, so hopefully that problem will be resolved for tonight. As always the game will be broadcast with audio only on our free channel at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/langley-rivermen-hockey . Puck drop is at 7:30 Pacific, pre- game will be at 7:15.