The Langley Rivermen needed to win game four of the series on Tuesday night to extend it to a fifth and deciding game on Wednesday night in Surrey. The Eagles picked up the victory in game three and had a 2-1 series lead and were looking to punch their ticket to the second round. It was do or die for the ‘Men and they would put James Barr in the pipes against Michael Santaguida.
The Rivermen did not get off to a good start as Viktor Dombrovskiy was handed a 2 minute bench minor for not getting off the ice before the buzzer sounded in warm-up. The ‘Birds Brady Shaw took full advantage 35 seconds in deking out Barr to the backhand to open up the scoring. The Rivermen would not be discouraged and would get the equalizer just past the halfway point of the period from Evan Campbell. Mario Puskarich took the hit to make the play at the right boards in the Surrey zone and found Turner Popoff at the point who blasted a shot through Santaguida and bounced right on the stick of Campbell who put it into the empty net. The Eagles would get that goal right back just under two minutes later on a rebound goal from Trevor Cameron. After that tally, the ‘Men would get into penalty trouble and found themselves down two men for over a minute, but would kill it off and kept it a one goal game. Overall in the first period, Langley would be handed five straight penalties and were out-shot 18-14.
In the second period, the Rivermen would start the frame shorthanded and did a great job killing the penalty and would grab momentum and eventually led to the tying goal from Mitch McLain. The Minnesota native would skate onto the puck with speed from the neutral zone and take it in the Surrey end and keep the puck to himself on a two on one and roof a backhand past Santaguida to tie the game at two. However, the Rivermen would get into penalty trouble once again and Adam Tambellini would make them pay snapping a shot off the right hand wall along the ice to make it 3-2. Just over four minutes later, Nicholas Pierog would go down the left-wing on an odd man rush and looked to pass to an open teammate, but it hit a Rivermen defender’s stick and bounced past Barr who did not see it coming. Before the period would end, Tambellini would snap a shot past the glove side of Barr on a two on one and extended the Eagles lead to three.
In the third period, Tambellini would cap off the hat-trick just before the five-minute mark hit as he stole the puck from a falling Rivermen defenseman at the Surrey blue line and raced back the other way on a breakaway and slipped a backhand between the legs of Barr. Trevor Cope would get that one back right off the ensuing face off as he fired a shot short side on Santaguida beneath the blocker. Unfortunately for the Rivermen, that would be their last goal of the season as the Eagles would skate away with the 6-3 win.
Langley’s playoff would last four games against the top team in the BCHL. In the end, the Eagles top players were a handful and look no further than Tambellini who scored five goals in the last two games. Penalties were an issue as well as the Eagles had nine power play opportunities alone in-game four.
Five Rivermen players would play in their last BCHL game and they are Mario Puskarich, Evan Campbell, Austin Azurdia, Derek Sutliffe, and Logan Smith. The future is still very bright in the Rivermen organization as they can return as many as 16 players next season.
On behalf of the Rivermen organization we would like to thank all the fans, volunteers, and sponsors for a fantastic season and we are already looking forward to next year!
Well give credit to the Eagles who played great in the two games in Langley. Right from their goaltender on out, they were too much to handle and their best players were the difference. I think that Tambellini kid has a future in this game…
With regards to game # 4, obviously it is tough to win when you give a team like Surrey nine power play opportunities. With that said, I was surprised at some of the calls (and so was Coach Henderson to say the least) that were being made, especially with what was on the line.
In closing, this 2012/2013 season was one heck of a ride. The improvement from last year to this season was night and day and this is not the last you will hear from the Rivermen with regards to playoff hockey. Yeah, they lose their top two leading scorers, but there are getting back some key pieces for another go around. Best of luck to Puskarich, Campbell, Azurdia, Smith, and Sutliffe who are moving on. All five were a pleasure to watch and deal with on a daily basis.
Who is excited for September yet?