The Langley Rivermen crawled back into a playoff spot with a 6-3 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday night. It was the fourth meeting of the season between the teams and coming into the contest the Chiefs won all three of the previous games. James Barr was expected to get the start, but was a late scratch which made way for back-up Darren Hogg who last played November 17th.
The ‘Men got off to a great start as Evan Campbell scored just 2:54 into the game on the power play. Mario Puskarich made the whole play happen as he took the puck on a rush down the right wing and spotted his centre man driving to the front of the net and put a perfect pass on his stick for his 10th of the year. After plenty of back and forth play for the next 13 minutes, Trevor Cope made it 2-0 on a perfectly placed wrist shot over the shoulder of Mitch Gillam. With just over a minute left in the frame, James Robinson smacked home a power play goal to extend the lead to three. The power play unit did a great job of moving the puck around the perimeter and it was Viktor Dombrovskiy feathering a pass to Robinson below the right circle and was able to squeeze it past Gillam along the post. It was a near perfect road start for the team and even outshot the Chiefs 14-10 after 20 minutes.
Chilliwack got back to their game early in the second period and scored 1:48 in on a goal from Mathieu Tibbet. That would be the only goal of the frame however as both goaltenders stood on their head. Hogg faced 19 shots in the period, while Gillam saw 8.
The third period was the most entertaining of the three to say the least. Mitch McLain made it a 4-1 score just before the three minute mark on a beautiful set up from Nathan Craft. Derek Sutliffe chipped the puck behind the Chiefs net to Craft who made a beautiful pass to McLain parked out in the crease and beat Gillam between the pads. A few minutes later Austin Plevy would take over. The former Rivermen skater would score two goals on one shift to make it a one goal game and re-energize the crowd. Coach Henderson would call a timeout to settle down the troops and the move worked. The Rivermen locked it down defensively and got a goal from Ben Butcher at the 12:53 mark. Butcher put up a prayer towards the Chiefs net in hopes of hooking up with Austin Azurdia, but instead the puck went off Jaret Babych and into the back of the net. Justlike he drew it up. For the Bellingham native it was his third straight game with a goal and it was a big insurance marker for the club. With less than two minutes to go and up 5-3, Logan Smith would take a penalty and with the goalie pulled it would be a two man advantage for the Chiefs. The Rivermen would not only kill it off, but Mitch McLain iced the game with an empty netter.
With the win the ‘Men leaped over the Express for fourth place in the division and still have two games in hand. The last time they held a playoff spot was back on October 20th and the win also put them back to a .500 record for the first time since November 19th.
Hogg would pick up his second win of the year and would face 46 shots by the end of the night. Campbell would be named the first star of the game, while Puskarich was the third star.