Three goals in two and a half minutes combined with a lacklustre power play did in the Langley Rivermen Friday night as they fell 6-3 to the Express in Coquitlam. The loss ends a streak of four consecutive wins for the Riv against division opponents and the first loss to the Express in their last four meetings.
The Rivermen started the game strong with several solid shifts, testing Coquitlam goaltender Gordie Defiel early. But it was the Express who struck first as Ryan Rosenthal made good on his second shorthanded breakaway chance going backhand top shelf past Steve Myland for Coquitlam’s 9th shorthanded goal of the season. Then just over a minute and a half later, Joey Santucci increased the lead to 2-0 followed shortly after by a Nathan Craft hooking penalty that put the Express onto their first power play of the game. 55 seconds after Santucci scored, Marc Biega connected on the power play putting Coquitlam up 3-0 on their first six shots. That spelled the end of the night for Myland as Brock Crossthwaite replaced him between the pipes. The Riv got on the board at the 13:32 mark as Austin Azurdia scored his 9th of the season finishing off a nice feed from newly acquired forward Gage Torrel to cut the Express lead to two. But with just under three minutes to go in the frame, Canon Pieper got the first of two on the night to restore the three goal lead heading into the break.
The second period started much like the first for Langley except the Riv were able to sustain that positive momentum as Torrel scored his first BCHL goal as Azurdia returned the favour with a nice pass of his own from the side of the crease for the one-timer cutting the Express lead to two once again. But yet again it was Coquitlam who was able to respond as Corey Mackin made it 5-2 as his shot from just inside the blueline was deflected high and into the back of the Rivermen net. Just over two minutes later at the 12:45 mark Canon Pieper’s second of the game gave the Express a four-goal lead. Coquitlam defenceman Ben Israel was called for a five minute major checking from behind penalty for a questionable high hit on Will Cook that forced the Rivermen forward out of the game while Israel also received a game misconduct. Despite the chance to get themselves back into the contest, Langley was unable to score on the power play with the Express carrying a 6-2 lead into the final period.
The Riv got a boost early in the third as another new face in Jackson Waniek got his first with the Rivermen just 1:55 in to cut the Express lead to three. But despite outshooting Coquitlam 11-8 in the final frame and 36-30 overall, Langley failed to tighten the game falling to 14-7-1-2 on the season. A Prince George win over Surrey also saw the Spruce Kings leapfrog over the Riv into first place in the Mainland division by a single point although Langley holds a game in hand.
While he didn’t factor in on the scoresheet, affiliate player Dante Fabbro was excellent Friday night on the Rivermen blueline. The 15-year old played with confidence and smarts and looked every bit in place in the BCHL. With several forwards out of action Friday, Torrel and Waniek stepping up was a good sign for the Riv as both Evan Anderson and James Robinson will remain sidelined for some time.
The Rivermen are right back at it Saturday night hosting the Victoria Grizzlies who make their only trip of the regular season to the Langley Events Centre with a 7:15pm puck drop.