The Langley Rivermen franchise hosted their first ever playoff game on Monday night against the Surrey Eagles. It was game three of the best of five series and it was all knotted up at 1-1 after Langley took game two on Saturday in Surrey by a score of 1-0. In goal, James Barr would go up against Michael Santaguida for a third straight time in what would be a record crowd of 2309 at the Langley Events Centre.
43 seconds into the first period, James Robinson would go off to the penalty box for hooking. The Eagles would take advantage in the late stages of their power play on a goal from Michael Stenerson. The ‘Birds did a tremendous job of moving the puck around the Langley zone before Drew Best fired it towards the net where Stenerson would find the rebound and put home his first of the playoffs. Later on in the period, Barr would make a great stop on Eagles captain Brett Mulcahy on a partial breakaway with the glove to keep it 1-0. Surrey would out-shoot Langley 15-11 in the first and took a one goal lead into the break.
Early on in the middle frame, the Eagles would score in the opening minutes. There was a puck battle in the left corner in the Langley end and many players were involved trying to get the puck free and it was Brady Shaw coming away with it and setting up Craig Wyszomirski wide open on the left-wing and perfectly placed a wrist shot on the glove side of Barr to make it 2-0. However, a few minutes later, the Rivermen would then get on the board. Santaguida came out of his net to play the puck to Wyszomirski who fanned on his clearing attempt and Mario Puskarich was there to steal it away and played the puck to a streaking James Robinson. The Alberta native took the pass in stride and flicked home his first of the playoffs to cut the lead to one. Both goaltenders would shut the door for the rest of the period and the Eagles would go into the third up by a score of 2-1.
The third period was one to forget for the ‘Boatmen as the Eagles would get goals from Shaw and Tambellini in less than six minutes and made it 4-1. With under six minutes to go, Tambellini would get another on a great wrist shot cutting across the Langley blue line that would get by Barr on the glove side. Pierog and Cope would trade goals late in the period and the Eagles would take game three 6-2.
The four goal third period from the Eagles proved to be the difference and now have put the Rivermen on the brink. Santaguida would pick up the win making 25 saves, while Barr was the losing ‘tender facing 36 shots. Tambellini would be the games first star, while Stenerson and Shaw rounded out the other two. Game four will be tomorrow at the Langley Events Centre at 7:15 PM.
Well it was a good 40 minute effort for the most part from the Rivermen’s side of things. The third period was….well……not very good. Give full marks to the Eagles who played a complete game and got contributions from just about everybody, especially their top guys. Their best players were exactly that in the game as Shaw, Stenerson, and Tambellini broke out in a big way combining for eight points. Santaguida was his regular self and his defense in front of him was very good.
It is gut check time for the ‘Men with their season on the line tomorrow night. It is win or go home and we should expect a much more hungrier Rivermen squad.