Well about 11 hours later, the Rivermen have finally arrived in Prince George. The trip got off to a rough start as a “rock slide” about an hour outside of Hope forced us to turn around and back track which cost us an hour, but huge props goes out to bus driver Dennis who got us here safe and sound after an all nighter. Boy am I glad I am writing this and not playing tonight, as that long trip takes a pretty big toll on the body (although Bobby should know I am ready to go at the drop of a hat) :).
Alright enough of that, there is a game to play today. This evening’s meeting will be the eighth of the year between the teams with Langley holding a 4-3 win advantage in the season series. Last time the Rivermen were here in mid February for a pair of games both teams won a game by the same scores of 6-3.
Both the Rivermen and Spruce Kings were in action last night for home games. The Spruce Kings lost 5-4 in double OT, while the Rivermen held on to a 4-3 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs. It was an entertaining game from start to finish and the climax of the contest had to be when the ‘Men had three short-handed breakaway’s in a span of about a minute. Mitch McLain had two of those breakaway’s back to back in the same shift, but was denied both times. Birthday boy Evan Campbell had the last try and made no mistake scoring an absolute beauty going backhand to forehand and slipped it five-hole when Gillam opened up the pads.
Coming into the game tonight at the Coliseum, the Rivermen have won three straight and with either a win tonight or tomorrow will lock up a playoff spot. The team is playing some of their best hockey of the season and look to be peaking at the perfect time. One thing that has been standing out lately is the play in the defensive zone. The rookies back there are playing like ‘vets’ and are making the right plays time and time again. Instead of panicking and throwing the puck blindly up the boards in hopes of a winger getting it, the D-core is now looking more patient and are finding the open man, which starts a nice breakout the other way. The coaching staff if showing a lot of confidence in every guy on defense especially some of the younger guys in Tanner Johnson, Viktor Dombrovskiy, and Aaron Dolby who are put out on the ice in the late stages in ‘crunch time’ not only last night but for quite some time now. Playing in these type of situations will only help these youngsters development and it gives them confidence, which we all know is one of the biggest keys for an athlete’s success in any sport.
The Rivermen still can catch Prince George for third place in the division, but they cannot lose in regulation tonight. Right now they are five points back, and have one game in hand. First and foremost though for the ‘Men is clinching that final playoff spot.
Langley- 4th place in Mainland. Wins: 23 Losses: 23 Tie: 1 OTL: 5 Points: 52
Prince George- 3rd place in Mainland. Wins: 24 Losses: 20 Tie: 1 OTL: 8 Points: 57
Langley- PP: 3rd place in BCHL @ 21.79% (has scored a PP goal in six straight) PK: 11th place in BCHL @79.13%
Prince George- PP: 15th place in BCHL @ 16.07%, PK: 8th place in BCHL @ 81.25%
WHO TO WATCH FOR:
Langley- Mark Whiteley. Man he is under-rated. He scored the game winning goal on the power play last night in the third period. It may have looked like a simple goal he scored, just by firing the puck from the blue line through a screen, but it was what he did before the shot that was impressive. Whiteley took the pass from Johnson on the right hand half-wall, squared up to the net and at the same time showed great foot-speed crossing over to the middle of the blue line with his head up, while stickhandling and saw traffic forming in front of Gillam and was able to go eight-ball-corner-pocket. It is little things like that play that goes un-noticed in his game by most, but not from scouts who are taking notice. It is hard to believe he was signed out of Junior “B” in late October. He currently leads the defense with 28 points.
Prince George- Bryant Christian. Also under-rated. He enters tonight’s game on a seven game point streak and has compiled five goals and five assists in that span. He is a versatile centre that plays in all situations for his club. The Minnesota native, is not the biggest guy on the ice at 5 foot 10, 160 pounds, but he plays a hard-working game and has 30 points in his rookie campaign.
Well it will be interesting to see how the Rivermen will do tonight considering the team spent the night on the bus after last night’s game. There is plenty to play for tonight with a playoff spot on the line and it is games like these that off ice training really pays off.
It will be a 7:00 puck drop from the PG Coliseum and can be seen live at http://www.fasthockey.com or free audio is at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/langley-rivermen-hockey. To finish off this post, below is a little photo gallery of the long road-trip up here to PG, which started directly after last night’s game.