The Rivermen look to bump a slump tonight hosting their division rival Coquitlam Express. The 8-5-0-2 Express are just two points behind 9-5-1-1 Langley in the tight Mainland division and hold a game in hand. The Riv are looking to get back in the win column having gone 0-2-1 in their last three games and having scored just two goals in their last two games, zero 5-on-5. Forward Will Cook is expected back in the lineup tonight which should provide a boost for the Rivermen’s offence which has relied heavily on special teams the last couple weeks. While the Riv’s penalty kill is a solid 90.9% at home (tops in the BCHL), the power play has struggled scoring just three times in their last 24 chances. The PP sits at a paltry 12.4% with only Vernon and Prince George scoring fewer times on the man advantage.
Suffice to say tonight is a big game against the league’s most potent offence. Coquitlam has scored 67 goals so far this season, best in the BCHL, but their team goals against average is middle of the pack at 3.20. The only other game in the BCHL tonight will also have big implications on the standings as the Spruce Kings host Merritt. A Prince George win combined with a Rivermen loss would make for a three-way tie atop the division standings.
The last time these two met was in Coquitlam back on October 11th in a rather heated affair the Rivermen took 3-1. The game saw plenty of penalties with four misconducts handed out which included Riv Head Coach Bobby Henderson being tossed in the second period. Steve Myland shone in net for Langley stopping 31 shots.
Tonight marks the fourth meeting of the season between the Riv and Express with Langley holding the season series edge 2-1. That includes a double overtime win in Coquitlam on September 21st when Kevan Kilistoff got the game winner spoiling the Express home opener, reciprocating what Coquitlam did in Langley the night before. The Express have outscored the Riv 11-10 in the first three meetings of the year.
Get the Power Play Going: Again, I feel like a broken record but the PP really has been a source of recent pain for the Rivermen. While the Riv did get a goal on the man advantage against Prince George it was the rare exception of late. Scoring in general needs to pick-up for Langley and you get the feeling that once the switch is flipped the goals will come in a wave. The Riv seemed to have been waiting for that perfect shot instead of simply firing pucks on net. Eventually something will go in.
Keep up the Intensity: The Rivermen did a good job of coming out strong against Penticton Saturday night but Sunday was a completely different story. The first shift needs to set the tone and pace of the game and the Riv have to come out hungry. Given the very hard practice they were put through on Monday and throughout the week, I have a feeling that hunger will be there.