The Langley Rivermen and the Chilliwack Chiefs squared off for a second time in a week at the Langley Events Centre on Friday night. Last Friday it was the Rivermen knocking off the Chiefs 5-1 in what was a fantastic effort from, start to finish. Coming into the game, the Rivermen were winners of their last two games, while the Chiefs lost their last two. In the pipes, James Barr would go up against Mitch Gillam once again.
The Rivermen would come out of the gates flying to start the game. Mitch Gillam was tested early and often and made a few key saves for the first 10 minutes. The Rivermen would sneak one by him however eventually on a goal from Nathan Craft at the 10:47 mark. The goal was all courtesy of Ben Butcher who took the puck in the Chiefs zone with speed down the left-wing and spotted a streaking Craft going to the net and put it off his stick and in past Gillam. Less than four minutes later, Austin Azurdia would put away his 18th goal of the year. Azurdia and his line-mates Matt Ustaski and Derek Sutliffe would we rewarded from their hard-working shift down low as Sutliffe took a pass in the slot and fired a shot that rebounded right to Azurdia who put it in to the empty goal. In the late stages of the period, Langley would get into penalty trouble and were down two men for close to two minutes. Trevor Hills would put away the Chiefs first of the game off an Austin Plevy rebound to cut the lead to one.
In the second period, the Chiefs would erase the two goal deficit on a goal from Josh Hansen. The former member of the Langley Chiefs was able to jump on a rebound off a long point shot and buried his 21st of the year. The Rivermen would continue to make their way to the penalty box as they were handed six straight penalties in the middle frame. During Turner Popoff’s four minute penalty, Mitch McLain would get two short handed breakway’s on the same shift, but could not sneak one by Gillam. On the next shift, Evan Campbell would get a breakaway pass from Mario Puskarich and the PoCo native would finish off a pretty move to get his team up 3-2. The lead would be short-lived as Spencer Graboski scored the equalizer on the next shift as he wired home a shot from the slot on a great feed from Phil Zielonka behind the goal.
In the third period, The Rivermen would capitalize on their fifth chance on the power play. The first PP unit did a great job of working the puck around the perimeter that eventually made it’s way to Mark Whiteley who flicked a long shot from the point through a maze of bodies that found the back of the net. It was Whiteley’s sixth goal of the year and credit him for noticing Gillam was screened and just let the shot go from the blueline. The Chiefs were pretty much held at bay for the remainder of the third period and came up short as Barr turned away all nine shots he faced.
The Rivermen would pick up their third straight win in front of a great crowd of 2013 people, and third straight overall against the Chiefs evening up the season series at 3-3. Evan Campbell would pick up first star honours with a goal and an assist on his birthday none other. Whiteley was second star, while Graboski was the third.
With the win, the team would stay five points up on the Coquitlam Express for fourth place. The Rivermen will now experience a grueling road trip up to Prince George for back to back games on Saturday and Sunday. They are five points back of them for third.