While Mario Puskarich is rolling, the same can't be said for the Langley Rivermen.
Puskarich, a 20-year-old Floridian who leads the B.C. Hockey League in scoring, put up seven goals and three assists in three weekend games to pad his points total to 75 in 49 contests.
"Mario has been great," Rivermen assistant coach Kurt Astle said. "His points speak for themselves but he's a guy who doesn't get noticed as much for his defence and his commitment to blocking shots. It's always nice to see the leading scorer in the league go down and block shots."
The Rivermen, however, have had their struggles. They've lost four of their last five and their record has fallen to 20-23-1-5
"As a team we need to be better," Astle said. "Sometimes it's one group of guys who show up, the next time it's a different set of guys. We need a full group in order to achieve our goals and be successful."
The team's up-and-down play continued over the weekend.
After doubling Prince George 6-3 Thursday, the Rivermen lost to the Spruce Kings by that same score the next night in back-to-back games at the Prince George Coliseum.
The 'Men closed out their weekend with a 5-4 loss to the Nanaimo Clippers Sunday at the Langley Events Centre.
One part of their game the Rivermen have to clean up is their goals-against totals, at 180 in 49 games. Among the 16 BCHL teams, only the Trail Smoke Eaters (216) and Coquitlam Express (189) have allowed more goals than the 'Men.
"Were not pleased with the amount of goals we've let in," Astle said. "We need to keep the puck out of our net and it starts with team defence."
Nanaimo 5, Rivermen 4
Playing their third game in as many days on a Mainland Division road swing, the Clippers led 4-2 after two periods, then held on for a one-goal victory.
Rivermen goaltender James Barr was tapped for his third
start in the week while Jayson Argue was the starter for Nanaimo.
After the Clippers' Mason Mitchell opened the scoring on a shot that sailed beneath the blocker of Barr, the 'Men tied the score on a goal from Puskarich.
Puskarich was denied on his first shot, but rifled in his 36th of the year on the rebound.
Nanaimo answered back with a shorthanded marker.
Evan Campbell had his pass intercepted in the slot in by Brock Maschmeyer, who raced down the ice before burying a snap shot top corner past Barr.
With less than five minutes to go, the Rivermen's Derek Sutliffe tied the game.
The Las Vegas native took a pass from Mitch McLain on the right boards and skated into the slot before letting a bullet go top shelf that knocked the water bottle off the net. On the shot, Argue was trying to play goal with a teammate's stick after dropping his goalie stick.
The second period was all Clippers. The veteran-laden squad got back-to-back goals from Greg Fraser and Matt Grant over a span of just over eight minutes to take a two-goal lead into the final 20.
The Clippers fired 20 shots on Barr alone in the second period.
The Rivermen rallied in the third when Campbell scored a powerplay goal at the 7: 17 mark. Off a face off win in the Nanaimo end, Puskarich made a perfect cross-ice pass from the left side to an open Campbell who buried his 16th goal of the campaign.
The Rivermen lost some of their momentum when Mitchell scored a wraparound goal just
before the 15-minute mark of the period.
However with time winding down, Puskarich took a pass in Clippers' territory from Campbell and flew down the right wing. He muscled a shot between the pads of Argue to make things interesting.
Then, with Barr pulled and just seconds remaining in the game, Pus-karich made a no-look pass to Matt Ustaski in front of the goal, but Argue made the game-winning save.
Credit the Clippers who were without six regulars out of their lineup.
Despite their recent struggles, the Rivermen remain five points up over the Coquitlam Express (29-29-1-0) in the battle for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mainland.
Prince George Spruce Kings 6, Rivermen 3
Talk about a reversal of fortunes.
On Friday, the Spruce Kings doubled the Rivermen 6-3 at the Prince George Coliseum.
The Rivermen took the first meeting by an identical score 24 hours previous.
Goaltender Darren Hogg got his first start in seven games for the 'Men, while Kirk Thompson received his second start in two days.
The Spruce Kings came out of the gates with more intensity compared to Thursday night, moving ahead 3-0 after two periods of play.
Even though they were in a hole entering the third period, the Rivermen would not give up. Jakob Reichert scored on a Langley powerplay before the two-minute mark hit.
Mark Whiteley fired a shot on goal that Thompson kicked right towards a wide open Reichert, who popped in his eighth goal of the year.
However, the Spruce Kings would get their three-goal lead back on a power play goal by Cam Lawson.
Just when it looked like things were bleak, Puskarich gave his team life again.
He spotted a loose rebound off hard work down low by Campbell and Ustaski and buried a wrist shot past a diving Thompson.
With less than eight minutes to go, Puskarich set up Campbell off a rush down the right wing.
Campbell's quick snap shot went between the legs of Thompson to make it a one-goal game.
But the Rivermen had some calls go against them and Prince George put them away with back-to-back goals from Shayne Morrissey and Lawson, who capped off the hat trick.
The Prince George powerplay was the difference, going three-for-four in the contest.
Rivermen 6, Spruce Kings 3
The 'Men and Spruce Kings got acquainted for the first time in 103 days on Thursday.
For the Rivermen, it was the first ever trip to the Prince George Coliseum, and the teams played a doubleheader to make the long trip worthwhile.
Coming into the contest, the Rivermen had a 3-2 win advantage in the season series.
In goal, it was the battle of the Surrey boys as Barr would get his sixth straight start, while Thompson would go for PG.
The Rivermen got off to a fantastic start as Puskarich opened the scoring at the 3: 23 mark on the powerplay.
He skated into the PG zone, lost the puck going to the net, got it back before Thompson could cover it, and buried it blocker side for his 32nd of the year.
Barr made multiple stops over the next 10 minutes, and his team rewarded him with another goal.
It once again came off the stick of Puskarich as he found a loose puck at the side of the net off a turnover from a Spruce Kings' defender and stuffed home a backhander on yet another power play.
Less than a minute later, McLain fired home a rebound off a shot from Sutliffe to make it a 3-0 for the visitors going into the second period.
The first nine minutes of the middle frame went back and forth, but Campbell made it a 4-0 game before the 10 minute mark hit.
The Port Coquitlam native took a pass from Austin Azurdia through centre ice, stepped around the Spruce Kings' Mitch Eden and jammed in his 14th goal of the season through the five-hole of Thompson, which chased him from the game.
The move seemed to spark the Spruce Kings as they got on the board courtesy of Bryant Christian, who found a loose puck in the slot and rifled a shot past Barr.
The Spruce Kings peppered Barr, throwing 28 pucks on net during the period, but Langley had a three-goal lead after 40 minutes at 4-1.
The Rivermen have let a few leads slip away against Prince George this season, but not this time.
McLain scored a beautiful goal on a two on one with Sutliffe. He decided to hang on to the puck down the left wing and was able to drag it around a sliding defenseman before whistling in his 14th goal through the legs of Liam McLeod.
With Langley on another man advantage, Puskarich capped off his hat-trick on a pretty goal, set up by Reichert.
The big winger took puck from his own end and muscled around two Spruce Kings before sliding a perfect pass to an open Puskarich for his 34th goal.
The Spruce Kings would not give up, scoring back-to-back with tallies from Cam Lawson and Stephen Penner.
Penner's first BCHL goal in his first ever game came in a losing effort as the Rivermen won by three.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Barr faced 49 shots on the night, while the Rivermen threw 22 pucks towards the combination of Thompson and McLeod.
Puskarich was named first star netting a hat trick (all three on the power play) and padded his lead in the race for the Brett Hull Trophy.
Barr was named second star, picking up his 17th win, and defenceman Mark Whiteley had a solid night by racking up four assists and was the third star.
The victory set a single season franchise record in wins with 20.
The Rivermen return to the LEC this Friday to host the Chilliwack Chiefs. Game time is 7: 15 p.m.