The Langley Rivermen and the Chilliwack Chiefs did battle at the Langley Events Centre for a second time this season on Friday night. Coming into the game, the Chiefs had a 3-1 win advantage and were coming off two straight victories, while the ‘Men lost their last two. James Barr would go up against Mitch Gillam in between the pipes.
The first period was a battle of the goaltenders. Barr and Gillam went save for save although Barr was tested seven more times than Gillam. Both teams had two power play opportunities a piece, but it was scoreless after the opening 20 minutes.
Just before the six-minute mark hit, Jakob Reichert broke the deadlock. With Phil Zielonka looking to stickhandle his way out of the Chiefs zone, Derek Sutliffe picked his pocket and fed a wide open Reichert in the slot who fired a shot between the pads of Gillam for his ninth goal of the season. The 1-0 lead did not last very long as the Chiefs would tie it up on a power play goal from captain David Thompson. Zielonka would throw the puck on goal from the left-wing that was tipped perfectly by Spencer Graboski in the slot to Thompson streaking in from the right point and buried his sixth goal. With under four minutes to go, the Rivermen would go on a power play of their own and capitalized on it. Mark Whiteley would take a pass at the blue line and put a shot through a maze of bodies in front of the goal and find it’s way between the legs of Gillam to make it a 2-1 score.
The third period may have been the best 20 minutes of hockey all year from Langley. Evan Anderson got the scoring started at the 2:19 mark as he put home his own rebound in the slot for his 11th goal of the year. Less than 11 minutes later, Derek Sutliffe won a foot race to the puck in the neutral zone and took it around the Chiefs net and wrapped it in past a sliding Mitch Gillam. It was an unbelievable solo effort from the Las Vegas native and showed his world-class speed on that play. With just over a minute to go, the league’s leading scorer would get in on the act. Mario Puskarich would take a perfect cross ice pass from Logan Smith and rifle home a shot top corner for his 38th goal of the campaign. The tally kept his goal streak alive to five games. In the end, Langley would pick up the 5-1 win and out shot the Chiefs 37-36.
It was a fantastic effort from the Rivermen from start to finish and were great in all three zones especially in the defensive end. Sutliffe would pick up first star honours with a goal and an assist, while Barr and Reichert were named second and third star respectively. The two teams will face-off next Friday at the Langley Events Centre at 7:15 PM.
It was great to see Langley find the killer instinct in the final 20 minutes. We have seen the Rivermen blow a couple of third period leads throughout the year, but tonight was a different story. Every single player stepped up and played at an elite level not allowing the Chiefs to find the equalizer.James Barr was very calm, cool, and collected in the net. He shut down many Chiefs opportunities, including a couple of two on ones and his team built off those key stops. Another positive was holding Luke Esposito and Austin Plevy in check. Not many teams can say that after a game against those two with the type of seasons they were having. Now it is just a matter of putting that same effort out on the ice consistently, which has been an issue this season. We will see what team comes to play tomorrow night in Vernon.