The Langley Rivermen suffered a very tough 6-5 double overtime loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday night in Trail at the Cominco Arena. It was very tough pill to swallow in the fact that Langley had a 3-0 lead in the second period at one point and a 4-2 lead going into the third. The ‘Smokies coming into the game were billed as a very entertaining squad and they put quite the third period show on for their fans. James Barr received his fourth straight start in goal, while Lyndon Stanwood got the call for Trail.
After back and forth play through the first 10 minutes of the first period, Langley opened the scoring on a power play goal from Mark Whiteley. After a quick face off win, Whiteley spotted traffic in front of the Smoke Eaters goaltender and fired a shot between the legs of Stanwood who did not see the shot coming at all. A few minutes later Mario Puskarich scored his fifth goal in four games off a quick wrist shot just in front of the crease. It was good hard work down low by Evan Campbell and James Robinson who made that whole play happen and Puskarich put the shot in a perfect spot. The team would take a 2-0 lead into the second frame after firing 10 shots on goal in the opening period. One play of note in the first 20 minutes was a fight between Turner Popoff and Adam Wheeldon. The Trail forward took exception to an open ice body check that Popoff delivered to leading scorer Brent Baltus in the neutral zone that knocked him out of the game. Both players would then get a game misconduct for a staged fight. None the less it was a candidate for scrap of the year.
Evan Campbell would waste no time in the second period scoring on the power play just 45 seconds in. Puskarich made a great play to keep the puck inside the Trail zone and found a wide open Campbell who pumped home a shot past the glove side of Stanwood. Credit the ‘Smokies as they did not back down and got on the board shortly after on a marker from Garrett McMullen. Trail would cut the deficit to just one goal at the six-minute mark on an unassisted tally from Bennett Hambrook. In the late stages of the period Evan Campbell would register his fourth point in two periods with another goal. Campbell finished off a pretty passing play between himself and James Robinson. Both players played give-and-go off a rush and Campbell flew down the left-wing and ripped the puck with very little room stick-side on Stanwood.
The third period was the most entertaining out of the three. With the Rivermen holding a two goal lead entering the third, Scott Davidson made it a 4-3 game at the 1:32 mark on a quick wrist shot down the right-wing that beat Barr beneath the blocker. The Smoke Eaters would complete the comeback just before the seven minute mark on McMullen’s second of the game. However, the Rivermen did not dwell on it and got right back on the score sheet. Trevor Cope would get the lead back on a wrap around goal that just squeaked in past Stanwood along the post. Cope was able to spot a loose rebound off a Logan Smith shot and quickly reacted with a wrap around move that paid off. Unfortunately for Langley the lead did not last long. Luke Sandler would even the up the score yet again on a power play goal. It was a fluke to say the least as Sandler dove into the net and had the puck ricochet off his elbow and land in the back of the net. The Rivermen argued, but on the replay it showed he did not mean to do it intentionally. With under five minutes to play Garrett McMullen was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway. The Trail sniper was looking for the hat trick and the first ‘Smokies lead of the game, but was denied by James Barr on a fantastic stop with the blocker. Overtime was needed.
Four on four solved nothing, but not without some great opportunities. Evan Campbell had one the best chances on a breakaway, but a diving Marley Keca knocked the puck off his stick just before he was about to make his move. Double overtime was needed and in 3 on 3 play, Campbell and Puskarich nearly ended it. On a two on one rush, Campbell threaded the needle to Puskarich who was open, but just missed it wide. Off that miss the ‘Smokies skated back down ice on a three on one and Braden Pears ended the game as he decided to look off the pass and fire a shot blocker side on Barr.
It was a very tough game to lose for Langley as they seemed to deserve a better fate as they did not trail for a single second in the contest.. The power play was perfect going 2/2 and Evan Campbell may have played his best game in a Rivermen uniform with a four point night. Not to be forgotten is his linemates James Robinson picking up three helpers and Puskarich ending with a goal and an assist.
By the time it was all said and done the ‘Men out chanced the ‘Smokies 36-13. That stat right there just goes to show how dangerous the Rivermen were offensivley, but missed opportunites proved to be the difference.
The team will wrap up this interior swing tomorrow night in Penticton. Note the start time at 5:00PM.