The Rivermen’s franchise high four game win streak will be put to the test tonight against the Penticton Vees. It will be the second and final meeting of the season between the teams. The Vees took the first meeting in convincing fashion 5-1 at the South Okanagan Events Centre on December 8th.
Langley is not only on a win streak, but are unbeaten in their last five games. In fact, the club’s last loss was almost a month ago to the Chilliwack Chiefs back on December 15th right here at the Langley Events Centre. The squad is really playing their best hockey all year as of right now. They are led by a red-hot offense who before last night led the BCHL in goals with 124. Since the ‘Men came back from the Christmas break, they have put up 23 goals and are led by Derek Sutliffe and Mitch McLain who have stepped up big time recording eight points each in the last four games. Scoring early has played a big role in their success of late. The ‘Men have scored the first goal in each of the past five games and have scored before the five-minute mark of the first period in the last three.
The defending national champions are in a familiar spot, which is first place in the Interior division with 51 points. Although not as dominant as last year’s dream team, when they recorded a CJHL record 42 game win streak (probably will never be touched ever again), but once again the organization has done a great job of bringing a top-tier team to the table.
It will be a home-coming of sorts for Thomas Nitsche who was traded to Penticton on December 28th. Nitsche started his BCHL career here in Langley and suited up in 82 games for the ‘Men and was named the second captain in Rivermen history back in the summer. For those wondering, he will wear his familiar #3 tonight.
The Rivermen did not make a trade on deadline day a few days ago, but they do get defenseman Aaron Dolby back from the IR. Dolby last played November 10th before going down with an injury. Before getting hurt, the Minnesota native was playing at a very high level and was gaining scouts interest each and every game. Getting him back is very big for this club down the stretch.
Last season on deadline day, Vees bench boss Fred Harbinson made a big splash acquiring Wade Murphy from the Victoria Grizzlies and the move paid off as he was an integral part of the RBC Cup winning team. A year later (a couple of days ago) he made another big move going out and getting John Siemer from Coquitlam for future considerations. Siemer is a face the Rivermen know quite well as he is having a break out season and now leads a very potent Vees squad in scoring.
Langley: GP: 35 Wins: 15 Losses: 14 Tie: 1 OTL: 5 Points: 36
Penticton: GP: 38 Wins: 24 Losses: 11 Tie: 0 OTL: 3 Points: 51
Langley: PP- 6th place @ 21.25%, PK- 5th place @ 81.66%
Penticton: PP- 14th place @ 16.77%, PK- 2nd place @ 84.87%
WHO TO WATCH FOR:
Langley: Derek Sutliffe. He is the reigning BCHL player of the week after recording 4 points including an overtime winner in last weekend’s victories. He is playing his best hockey of his junior career as he is currently on a six game point streak and has 11 points in that span. He along with line mate Mitch McLain have racked up two points each in the last four games. He seems to have a flair for the dramatic as well as four of his nine goals this year have been in the game winning variety.
Penticton: Wade Murphy. He was my player to watch in the first meeting of the season back on December 8th due in part to what he has done to the Rivermen in his career. In six games dating back to last year (including when he was in Victoria) he has six goals and 12 assists against the ‘Men. He once again is having a phenominal season with 45 points.
This will be the first time the Vees will play the Rivermen at the Langley Events Centre. The last time they were here was nearly two years ago on January 15th, when they dumped the Langley Chiefs 6-5 in OT. The Vees are coming into a building where the Rivermen have had a lot of success this year in. Through 16 games inside the LEC, the Rivermen are 10-3-1-2 and have outscored opponents 76-37.
Tonight may be the stiffest test all year as the Vees are outstanding from their goaltender out. They were in Surrey last night and lost 2-1, so you can bet they will be coming out ‘guns a blazin’ when the puck drops tonight. It will be a 7:15 PM face off from the LEC and can be seen live on Fasthockey PPV and on Ustream.tv.