The Langley Rivermen made their first and only trip up to Vernon to take on the Vipers on Saturday night. Going into the game, the Rivermen led the season series 1-0 after picking up an overtime win against them back in October. James Barr would get the start for Langley, while Austin Smith got the call in net for Vernon.
The five-hour bus ride up to Vernon seemed to get to Langley in the first period, as the Vipers were all over them to start the game. 20 seconds in, James Barr was forced to make an unbelievable pad stop on Liam board who set up perfectly by Mason Blacklock on a 2 on 1. The Vipers would keep pressing and were rewarded for their efforts on a goal from captain Brett Corkey at the 7:34 mark. Corkey played give and go with Michael Roberts in the Langley zone and was left all alone in the slot and fired a snap shot off the post and in the net past Barr’s blocker. The Rivermen would have a couple of opportunities on the power play, but could not get anything by Smith. With less than one minute to go, Craig Martin would put away a wrap around to make it 2-0 after he found a loose puck behind the Langley net. The ‘Vipes would out shoot the ‘Men 13-9 after 20 minutes.
The Rivermen would find their legs in the second period. Tanner Johnson would score his first career BCHL goal at the 5:34 mark to get his team on the board. James Robinson passed the puck out in front of the net to Mario Puskarich who fanned on his shot, but Johnson came in off the right point and slapped home a goal he will soon not forget. The goal sparked the Rivermen as they started to find their legs and were able to tie up the game on a power play goal from Matt Ustaski. Mark Whitley did a great job of entering the attacking zone on a rush and dropped a pass to a trailing Puskarich who fired a shot on Smith that let out a big rebound and in mid-air Ustaski whacked home the loose puck for his 11th.
The third period was pretty even for the most part. Both teams had chances, but none bigger than Logan Mick in the late stages. After a Vipers forward fired a shot on Barr, the rebound ended up right in front of the crease to a wide open Mick who looked like he had Barr beat, but the Langley netminder dove at the shot and kept the puck out. No goals were scored, which made way for overtime.
Early in the extra frame, rookie defenseman Tanner would cap off a night to remember. Matt Ustaski led the rush in the Vernon zone and centred a pass to Robinson who found Johnson joining the play late and beat Smith along the ice for the game winning goal. Johnson would finish as the games first star picking up his first two goals of the season. Barr would pick up his second straight win on the weekend and now has 19 on the season. Mario Puskarich meanwhile, racked up two assists continuing his point streak to six games and is the first player in the BCHL to reach 80 points.
It was a gutsy, character, come from behind win as the ‘Men picked up two very valuable points in the standings. Langley now is seven points up on Coquitlam for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mainland Division.