Brock Crossthwaite made 36 saves, Austin Azurdia scored twice, and the Rivermen played a solid 60 minutes both on offence and in their own zone for the 3-0 win, earning a 3-2 series lead in the best-of-seven Mainland division semi-final.
After letting in early goals in three of the first four games of the series, the Rivermen played solid defensively with excellent netminding by Crossthwaite who was at the top of his game from the opening face-off. He was calm in net, read his shots well, and was huge on the penalty kill especially while the Riv were forced to kill a five minute major to Captain Mitch McLain starting late in the second after he made contact with Surrey goaltender Bo Didur. McLain was also slapped with a game misconduct on a play that saw him hit Didur while being hooked and sliding in on his knees.
After finding his speed and playing well in Surrey, Azurdia was rewarded with two goals in less than two minutes in the second period. The first as James Robinson fed him the puck from behind the net. The second saw AZ bank the puck in off Didur from a sharp angle and past the goal line. Robinson assisted on the second as well while Kevan Kilistoff picked up a point for the third straight game as he too could have easily cracked the three star selection.
Zach Urban assisted on AZ’s first as the veteran played heavy minutes on the Riv blueline and was a big reason why the Eagles weren’t able to get on the board, absolutely solid in his own zone.
Didur was pulled with over three minutes to go but it was Tanner Johnson who found the empty net after a couple near Rivermen misses to seal the deal.
For the second straight game the Rivermen outshot the Eagles but this time it was a dominant effort from start to finish. With a 3-2 series lead another similar effort Tuesday night could have the Rivermen off to the second round for the first time in team history. But the hardworking Eagles have their backs against the wall and that’s always when a team is at its most dangerous. Game six will not, if anything, come easy.