The Langley Rivermen took an early lead and held off a late Chilliwack surge Wednesday night to earn a 4-3 win over the Chiefs, the Riv’s third straight victory.
The game was an entertaining one for fans, although perhaps a little too entertaining for both coaching staffs as the Rivermen dominated puck possession in the Chiefs zone but due to a bouncing or rolling puck or just plain bad luck weren’t able to capitalize on a number of beautiful scoring opportunities. Despite being outshot 14-8 in the final period, Langley held the edge in shots on goal 41-35.
Mitch McLain opened scoring just 6:34 into the first beating Chilliwack goaltender Josh Halpenny on a backhand shot top-corner from a sharp angle by the side of the crease, assisted by James Robinson and Will Cook. After the Rivermen dominated most of the opening frame Jake Hand tied the game with just over two minutes to go. But Nathan Craft scored his fourth goal in his last three games with 45 seconds left in the first from McLain and Brendan Gulka to reclaim the one goal lead heading into the second.
The Riv held the 2-1 lead until late in the second when Carter Cochrane beat a screened Brock Crossthwaite on a blast from the blueline to tie the game once again. Langley was able to kill off three straight penalties early in the third and built momentum from the strong PK as James Robinson notched his fifth of the season on a dish from the newly acquired Jamie Vlanich who earned his first point as a Riverman. With just over three minutes to go Matt Ustaski batted a puck from the far side of the crease past Halpenny for the first two-goal lead of the game. But less than a minute later Kurt Black slid the puck past the line on a goal-mouth scramble to pull the Chiefs back within one with two and a half minutes on the clock.
The Chiefs pulled Halpenny for the extra attacker with about a minute to go but couldn’t get the equalizer as the Riv earned their first win of the season against Chilliwack, evening the season series at 1. Neither team was able to connect on the power play as the Rivermen went 0/3 while killing off all five shorthanded situations. Crossthwaite was strong in net for his sixth win of the season.
The Rivermen are now 12-5-1-1 on the season opening up a four point lead over the Prince George Spruce Kings who are in Langley Saturday night for what could be a share of first-place in the Mainland division depending on the outcome of the Spruce Kings game in Surrey Friday night.
Wednesday marked the return of Austen Bietenbeck to the Rivermen lineup having missed well over a month due to injury, but he was solid on the blueline while Travis Maxwell played as a forward once again.
While the Riv failed to capitalize on a good portion of their scoring chances in Chilliwack, they pulled out a solid road win and can now go for a fourth straight as they return home.