It might not have been pretty but the Langley Rivermen are back on the winning track with a 2-1 victory over the Eagles in Surrey Monday afternoon. Scoring his third goal in as many games, 16-year old rookie Marcus Vela got the game winning goal with just under four minutes to go in the second period as the Riv held on for their fourth straight win over their division rivals.
It was a great start to a road game for Langley as Mitch McLain scored his 11th of the season on the Riv’s first shot on goal beating Devon Fordyce with a hard, low snapshot that went into the far corner of the net to put Langley up 1-0. Just five minutes later the Eagles responded as Matthew Dawson fired a slapshot from the high slot on a 5-on-3 power play, the first power play goal surrendered by the Rivermen in four games. The rest of the opening frame was relatively vanilla until the final minute when Vela got caught by an undetected spear. He retaliated as bodies gathered in front of the Rivermen bench and before you knew it a line brawl had broken out with everyone pairing off. As the four officials were trying to maintain control, McLain and Jonah Renouf squared off at centre ice as the Rivermen Captain laid several punishing blows on Surrey’s second leading scorer. Both McLain and Renouf were handed fighting majors and game misconducts while a total of 36 penalty minutes were handed out for the altercation including a 10-minute misconduct to Charlie Pelnik.
The Eagles received a power play carrying over into the second with an extra minor penalty assessed to the Rivermen but the only goal of the middle frame came courtesy of Vela at the 16:24 mark as the centreman carried the puck into the Surrey zone, dished it off to Austin Azurdia on the left wing side before receiving it back towards the top of the crease putting it past Fordyce for the go-ahead goal, and the eventual game winner.
The Eagles had their share of chances in the third outshooting the Rivermen 11-4 in the final frame but Crossthwaite was solid stopping 28 shots for his seventh win of the season earning the game’s first star. Langley has now reclaimed first place in the Mainland division with a 14-6-1-2 record, one point ahead of Prince George and with a game in hand on the Spruce Kings. The game was the first in the BCHL for affiliate player Cam Bertsch of the PJHL’s Mission Outlaws who suited up wearing number 3 for Langley.
The Rivermen next face the Coquitlam Express on the road Friday before returning to the LEC for a home date with the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday. The Riv will welcome defenceman Viktor Dombrovskiy back to the lineup this week as he has now returned from Nova Scotia with a bronze medal in hand from the World Junior A Challenge as a member of Team Canada West.