The Rivermen have come out of the Prince George double header with the split, a 4-3 regulation win over their division rival Spruce Kings. The split means the Riv restore their 8 point lead atop the Mainland division making it now that much more difficult for Prince George to try to catch Langley at the top with just 6 games left on the Spruce Kings’ schedule.
After a difficult start Thursday, the Rivermen reversed their fortunes Friday getting out to a 3-0 lead by the middle of the first. Tanner Johnson got the ball rolling early as he was finally rewarded with his third goal of the season, sailing the puck from the point past Alex Murray. It’s been a long time coming for Johnny as he’s been a bit snakebitten of late, including a couple great chances against the Vipers last weekend so it was great to see him get in the goal tally on the scoresheet. Jakob Reichert then set up the next two goals in almost identical fashion feeding the puck from down low, first out to Marcus Vela who made good on his 11th, then later to Matt Ustaski who banged home his 22nd.
The big lead was fleeting, however, as Bryant Christian put in a rebound on the power play. Mitch Eden then scored the first of two on the night with just 3.3 seconds on the clock to cut Langley’s lead to one heading into the second. The comeback then continued for PG with Eden scoring on the power play midway through the frame. Both teams traded chances throughout the remainder of the period but both Brock Crossthwaite and Murray made some good saves. Just as they did on Thursday night, the Rivermen carried most of the play for the third period which started out well with Evan Anderson’s game winner coming at the 2:42 mark putting home a Ustaski rebound.
Special teams were not the Rivermen’s strongest suit Friday as they allowed two power play goals against on three PG opportunities while failing to capitalize on three power plays of their own. But five-on-five, the Rivermen continued to create chances and definitely had the edge in puck possession and scoring opportunities.
Crossthwaite’s 24 saves earned him his 22nd win of the season in a good bounce back effort. Affiliate Matt Vela checked into the Riv lineup for his 7th game of the season and provided his usual speed and energy, exactly what Bobby Henderson asks of him. Despite not finding the scoresheet in either game, Tyson Witala had an excellent performance and was cheated out of several golden scoring chances over the two days in his hometown.
The Riv now have 24 out of a possible 28 points in 2014 and with 73, continue to lead the entire league. Next up for the Rivermen is a home date Tuesday against the Coquitlam Express, the final regular season meeting against their division rivals from across the river.
Innovative Fitness 3 Stars
1 – Mitch Eden (2G, 1A)
2 – Matt Ustaski (1G, 1A, another stellar offensive performance)
3 – Will Cook (didn’t factor in scoring but was amazing on the puck winning battle after battle)