It was the second straight overtime loss for the Rivermen Saturday night but a very different way of getting there.
While the Riv had to battle back in the third period just as they did against Nanaimo before the Christmas break, this game had far more twists and turns…and penalty minutes. The way you handle a long break from game action can often be defined by your start to the first game back and in this case against the Express, it was a pretty good start for the Riv as Gage Torrel opened scoring less than three minutes in off a gorgeous feed from Will Cook down low who patiently outwaited a scrambling Coquitlam defence to get the puck to his linemate who scored his eighth of the season.
But for the following 37 minutes it was pretty much all Express. A power play goal midway through the first followed up by the Express’ league leading 14th shorthanded marker had the visitors in front 2-1 heading into the second. Things certainly didn’t get any better for the Riv as penalty troubles saw Langley give up five Coquitlam power plays. Marc Biega scored his second of the night on one of those man advantages to take the Express’ first two-goal lead of the game. Darien Craighead earned his second of the season shortly after off a nice feed from Marcus Vela cutting the lead back to one but the Express added two more to take a 5-2 lead heading into the final period.
Seeing as the Riv had scored three goals in all three periods in the Express’ last visit to the LEC (in fact 3 in the first, 4 in the second, and 5 in the third), it certainly wasn’t out of the realm of possibility Langley could tie the game, and that’s exactly what they did. Tony Bretzman’s third of the season on the power play early in the third was followed up by Matt Ustaski’s 16th on a one-timer from Mitch McLain and finally Zach Urban’s second which tied the game at five with eight minutes to go. The Rivermen outshot the Express 16-7 in the third which had an effort that would have had the game in hand much earlier had they started like that, and kept it going.
A couple great Rivermen overtime chances were foiled as Biega completed the hat trick for the game winner. It was a play that should have been whistled down in the first place as Brock Crossthwaite had clear control of the puck under his glove for a good two seconds before Adam Rockwood dug it out and left it for his defenceman to slide it into the back of the Rivermen net.
All things considered, the Rivermen will take the point and try to make it a three-point weekend with a win in Coquitlam Sunday afternoon.
Bretzman’s goal was his third against the Express at home. Saturday night was also the Rivermen debut for 20-year old Tyson Witala who joined Langley after starting the season in Trail, where he had 15 points in 22 games. The former Spruce King and Warrior had a number of good scoring chances and was much better than 50 percent on the draw as he impressed despite missing out on the scoresheet.
Puck drop Sunday afternoon in Coquitlam is set for 2:00pm.