There has been no Rivermen season series that has been as closely fought as that with the Prince George Spruce Kings. And so it’s fitting in a way that tonight’s battle, the final regular season home game at the Langley Events Centre, ended in a 3-3 draw.
For the second straight game, Matt Ustaski tied it in the first after the visitors opened scoring early, this time Matty got his 26th on the man advantage from Tyson Witala and Jakob Reichert on a forward PP group that combines a lot of size but also deft hands, as Ustaski has four goals in his last two games. Witala was rewarded again in the first with just 30 seconds on the clock roofing home a pass from Reichert to give the Riv their first lead, an easy choice for Play of the Game:
But if there’s any way to describe the Spruce Kings in their play against Langley it is pesky. They’re a hard working bunch that took advantage of a five minute major blow to the head call against James Robinson to tie it midway through the third. The initial penalty was a two minute board but after an officials conference, Robinson was handed the more severe penalty along with a game misconduct, a play that will be reviewed by the league. It’s an unfortunate call as it appeared Robby hit his man shoulder on shoulder before his head hit the glass. Luckily there was no injury on the play.
But once again it was Evan Anderson who came to the rescue with his fourth in his last two games, to restore the lead, only to have Mitch Eden tie it again with 90 seconds on the clock. The Rivermen then dominated control in both overtime periods but Alex Murray made some remarkable saves while other chances, including a Darien Craighead breakaway, saw the Riv fail to get the bounces or puck luck they needed to secure the extra point.
Several Rivermen players made a case for themselves for BCHL Player of the Week consideration, most notably Anderson who had 4 goals and 2 assist in three games along with two first stars, and a third star of the game. Now fully healthy and back in game form, Andy has been on fire. The same can be said of Witala who also has six points in his last three games. Now able to play an unlimited number of games for the Riv, Witala has been a serious threat to score every single shift. His work with Andy and Gage Torrel along with Reichert and others shows his versatility as a player as he is able to develop some serious chemistry with a number of different linemates. Now in his 20-year old season, Witala has the chance to go on a deep playoff run for the first time in his BCHL career and he has been spectacular and a treat to watch especially over the last couple weeks.
While the Riv did secure a single point, a Victoria win over Surrey Sunday means the Grizzlies are tied with Langley for the overall lead atop the BCHL standings. This builds to a big two games in Prince George this Thursday and Friday to close out the regular season.
Innovative Fitness Langley 3 Stars
1 – Matt Ustaski (1G, threatened to score several others and picked up where he left off from a dominant effort Friday)
2 – Jakob Reichert (2A, both nice feeds and played to his best power forward potential this afternoon)
3 – Evan Anderson (1G, another clutch goal, and also generated a number of other near miss chances)