Only 13 games remain in the 2015-16 BCHL season, and the Langley Rivermen are beginning to find momentum as they head towards the ‘stretch drive’. The last time they lost in regulation was over two weeks ago and have earned at least one point in five straight games. Last week, they earned five out of a possible six points after beating Prince George back to back in their own building, but last Sunday lost 6-5 in overtime to Coquitlam, who staged a third period comeback.
“I was overall pretty happy with our effort up in Prince George and thought they played us hard in both games. In the Coquitlam game, it was disappointing to give up a lead like we did, but I hope the guys learned from it and can close out games when we have the opportunity next time,” said Rivermen Head Coach and GM Bobby Henderson.
Every team’s goal going into a new BCHL season is to make the playoffs. The Rivermen achieved that feat after their second victory in PG, but now it is all about battling for positioning.
“It’s nice to know that we are going to be in the playoffs, but we aren’t satisfied with where we are and want to move up in the standings. Having home-ice is pretty big when it comes to the post-season and we have to continue to play well if we want game one to be at the Langley Events Centre,” said rookie Ryan Barrow, who pitched in with two goals on Sunday.
The Rivermen’s offense has stepped up big time of late. Last week, the team recorded five goals in three straight games and have scored at least five markers in four out of their last five contests. On the roster, the Riv have five players that have scored at least 15 goals on the season. No other team in the BCHL have more than four. The Rivermen currently lead the Mainland Division in goals with 172.
“We have been a team that has scored by committee all season long, and I believe that makes us a tough team to play against. Last year in playoffs, our depth hurt us a little bit when guys went down with injuries, but this year is a different story as anyone in our line-up can score on any given night. It’s been nice to see lots of different guys step up this year for us,” said leading scorer Matthew Graham.
45 games into the season, the Rivermen show a record of 25-17-2-1 for 53 points and are just two back of second place Wenatchee.
Friday, January 29 @ Merritt Centennials- Nicola Valley Arena-7:30pm
Friday’s game will be the last of two meetings on the season between the Rivermen and ‘Cents. Merritt came in to the LEC on November 27 and handed the Riv a 2-1 loss. This season has been a struggle for the Merritt as they currently sit last in the Interior Division with a 16-26-3-1 record for 36 points, but do have two dangerous forwards in Colin Grannary and Nick Jermain, who have 24 and 23 goals respectively.
“They are a confident team right now after beating Penticton on Wednesday night and look like a different group since the deadline. It is going to be a fast paced game as they like to push the tempo offensively, and defensively, do a good job of clogging up the neutral zone. They play well in that rink and should be an entertaining one,” said Henderson about his next opponent.
Saturday, January 30 vs. Wenatchee Wild- Langley Events Centre- 6:00pm
Saturday evening at the “Fort” could very well be a playoff preview. As it stands on Thursday, January 28, the Wild have just a two-point cushion on the Rivermen in the Mainland Division and if the season ended today, would play each other in the opening round of the playoffs. The season series has been tight thus far, with both teams winning a game a piece.
The Wild are currently on a three-game Mainland road-swing and were able to start off the trip by beating Coquitlam 4-2 on Wednesday night. On Friday, they travel to South Surrey Arena to play the Surrey Eagles and will be looking for more W’s as they have been inconsistent in their last seven games with a 2-5-0-0 record.
“These head to head games are huge between us with regards to home-ice advantage for playoffs. They are a team that plays the game at a high pace and are deep squad from the goaltender on out. We need to get on them early and dictate the game,” said Graham.
Sunday, January 31 vs. Surrey Eagles- Langley Events Centre- 3:00pm
The Rivermen lead the season series with the Eagles with three wins in the five meetings thus far. Last time the two cross-town rivals locked horns on December 13 it ended in a 3-3 tie. The ‘Birds will look to play spoilers as they enter the weekend with a 6-36-0-2 record and carry a very young team with just two-20 year- old players on their roster. One of those veterans in Kurt Black leads the team in scoring with 34 points in 39 games.
“The Eagles have taken some points away from us this season and have played us pretty tough. It will be our third game in a row on the weekend, so we need to play smart and have everybody going from the drop of the puck,” finished Barrow.
For fans going to the game, there will be no post-game skate with the team.