The Rivermen did exactly what they needed to do Friday night. And while it took a bit longer to get rolling, the Riv dominated the Eagles in the second and third periods scoring three times in each en route to a 6-3 win taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Mainland division semi-final series.
The first was another slow one for the Rivermen as an early goal was scored for the third straight game, this time courtesy of the Eagles less than five minutes in. After trailing in shots 9-1 midway through the first, the Rivermen led 26-16 after two periods. It was the veteran Zach Urban who began the charge with his first of the playoffs on the power play just 1:44 into the second as he sent a low shot five-hole past Bo Didur. The Rivermen continued to press and eventually took the lead later in the frame when Matt Ustaski got his first of two on the night, also on the man advantage. Then the floodgates were open as just over two minutes later Jakob Reichert scored his second of the playoffs shooting in his own rebound.
The third continued the Rivermen’s offensive dominance with Ustaski’s second of the the night and fifth of the post-season. Midway through the third Austin Azurdia sped up the right wing, dished the puck cross-ice to Kevan Kilistoff who went forehand, backhand and gave the Riv a 5-1 lead against his former club. Darien Craighead then scored his first BCHL playoff goal on his 17th birthday, giving himself and the Rivermen a nice present with a five goal lead. Chase McMurphy got one back on the power play for the Eagles but the damage had already been done.
With just over two minutes to go, Marcus Vela absolutely crushed Dominic Masellis with a legal hit just in front of the Rivermen bench which led to a gathering on the ice. Things seemed to calm down until an altercation further along the boards led to a total of five misconducts and two game misconducts, including to Surrey bench boss Peter Schaefer. Somehow out of the ordeal the Eagles (who received five of the seven misconducts) earned a full two-minute five-on-three where Matthew Dawson scored to cut the lead to three.
After a relatively calm first two games of the series, emotions boiled over big time in this one which also included a Tanner Johnson tilt at centre ice with Colton Mackie in the second period.
Along with exerting Rivermen style hockey for the final 40 minutes, the Rivermen also got back to consistency on special teams going 2/5 on the power play and killing off six of seven shorthanded situations. The Riv also outshot the Eagles 35-28 as Brock Crossthwaite picked up his second playoff win.
Now with seven points in three playoff games, Ustaski is tied for the league lead and is tied for second in goals with five. Aside from Ustaski’s three point night, four other Rivermen had multi-point games in Urban, Reichert, Kilistoff, and Viktor Dombrovskiy.
You can classify Friday night in the “that’s more like it” category. More of the same Saturday night in game four can only mean good things.
Innovative Fitness Langley 3 Stars
1 – Matt Ustaski (2G, 1A, continues his best play of the season at the best possible time)
2 – Matthew Dawson (1G, 2A)
3 – Zach Urban (1G, 1A, his veteran leadership came alive in this one)