The Langley Rivermen are moving in an upward direction.
The 'Men are riding a four-game win streak after victories over the Chilliwack Chiefs and Cowichan Valley Capitals last weekend, are the highest scoring team in the BCHL with 124 goals-for, and have the league's leading point-getter in Mario Puskarich.
"I think all the guys are on the same page," said forward Derek Sutliffe, who scored the overtime winner against Cowichan Valley Sunday afternoon. "It starts up front and moves on back to goaltending."
Whether the Rivermen will continue their momentum will hinge on how they fare this weekend, starting Saturday at home against the defending B.C. Hockey League and national champion Penticton Vees.
The 'Men will face a tough challenge from the Vees as they look to win their fifth consecutive game.
At 24-10-0-3, the Vees are the top team in the Interior Division.
Game time is 7 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre (LEC).
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the 'Men, who sit fourth in the Mainland Division with a 15-14-1-5 mark.
They will face the second-place team in the Mainland, the Surrey Eagles, on Sunday afternoon at the LEC, with a 2 p.m. opening faceoff.
Capitals 3 (OT)
The 'Men opened their 2013 home schedule with an overtime win against the Capitals Sunday at the LEC.
It was the second and final meeting between the teams with Cowichan taking the first game 4-3 in double OT back in November.
Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson said his team could have played better, but was happy with the victory.
"For a Sunday afternoon game, a quick turnaround, I thought they were pretty good out of the gate," Henderson said. "I thought there was a little bit of a sag, but all in all [the players] were pretty good structurally and got the win."
Sutliffe's second of the day, scored 2:34 into the first overtime period, gave the 'Men the victory.
Rivermen goaltender Darren Hogg got his second straight start as James Barr was injured.
The Capitals put in affiliate netminder Stephen Heslop.
For a second straight night, the 'Men got off to a fast start.
Before the five-minute mark, Mario Puskarich added to his league lead in goals as he popped in his 25th of the season on a perfectly placed wrist shot.
The goal happened off the rush on a great cross ice pass from James Robinson, which gave Puskarich time and space as he picked his spot to perfection.
Sutliffe scored just a few minutes later to make it 2-0. The tally was created by great hard work down low from Mitch McLain, who dug the puck free behind the Cowichan net and found Sutliffe waiting in the slot.
With under two minutes remaining, the Caps tallied back-to-back goals from Jarrett Brown and Teal Burns to even up the game after 20 minutes.
The goaltenders were the story in the second period as both Hogg and Heslop stopped every shot they faced.
There were two glorious opportunities for the Rivermen to score in the middle frame.
Tanner Johnson fired one off the crossbar during a delayed penalty, and Robinson was robbed by Heslop in the slot during a Langley powerplay.
With the score tied 2-2 in the third, Puskarich scored his second of the game on the man advantage at the 7:52 mark. Puskarich controlled the puck at the top right circle and slid the puck along the ice, beating a surprised Heslop between the five hole.
However, the lead would not last long as the Capitals tied it up on a goal from Tyler Mueller. The Caps defenseman crossed the Langley line and took a long shot that beat Hogg beneath the glove.
Overtime was needed and in the extra period, Sutliffe played the role of hero. McLain did all the work as he drove hard down the right wing and put the puck on goal for a rebound. Sutliffe was right on the doorstep to score the game winner.
With the victory, the Rivermen are unbeaten in their last five outings.
"I think we played a pretty good game," Rivermen defenceman Viktor Dombrovskiy said. "We managed to bear down and pull through as a group and get the two points."
Hogg recorded his second straight win, facing 30 shots.
Chilliwack Chiefs 3
The Rivermen had their skating legs moving Saturday night at Chilliwack's Prospera Centre.
The 'Men snapped a season-long winless skid against the Chilliwack Chiefs by doubling the Mainland Division's top team 6-3.
It was the fourth meeting of the season between the teams and coming into the contest the Chiefs had won all three of the previous games.
Barr was expected to get the start, but was a late scratch, which made way for Hogg, who last played Nov. 17.
The 'Men got off to a great start as Evan Campbell scored just 2:54 into the game on the powerplay.
Puskarich made the play happen as he took the puck on a rush down the right wing and spotted his centreman driving to the front of the net. Puskarich put a perfect pass on his stick, as Campbell's potted his 10th of the year.
After plenty of back and forth play for the next 13 minutes, Langley's Trevor Cope made it 2-0 on a perfectly placed wrist shot over the shoulder of Chilliwack netminder Mitch Gillam.
Then, with just over a minute left in the frame, Robinson smacked home a powerplay goal to extend the visitors' lead to three.
Langley's powerplay unit moved the puck around the perimeter and it was Dombrovskiy feathering a pass to Robinson below the right circle.
After taking the feed, Robinson was able to squeeze the puck past Gillam along the post.
It was a near perfect road start for a Rivermen squad that outshot the Chiefs 14-10 in the opening 20 minutes.
Chilliwack got back to their game early in the second period and scored 1:48 after the opening faceoff on a goal from Mathieu Tibbet.
That would be the only goal of the frame, however, as both goaltenders stood on their heads.
Hogg faced 19 shots in the period, while at the other end, Gillam saw eight.
The third period was the most entertaining of the three, to say the least.
McLain made it 4-1 for the 'Men just before the three minute mark on a beautiful set up from Nathan Craft.
Sutliffe chipped the puck behind the Chiefs' net to Craft, who made a beautiful pass to McLain parked out in the crease, and he beat Gillam between the pads.
A few minutes later Langley native and Chiefs' star Austin Plevy took over.
The former Rivermen skater scored back-to-back goals in rapid succession to make it a one goal game and re-energize the Chiefs' crowd.
This prompted Henderson to call a timeout to settle down the troops.
The move worked.
The Rivermen locked it down defensively and got a goal from rookie Ben Butcher at the 12:53 mark. Butcher put up a prayer towards the Chiefs net in hopes of hooking up with Austin Azurdia, but instead the puck went off Jaret Babych and into the back of the net. For the Bellingham native it was his third straight game with a goal and it was a big insurance marker for the club.
With less than two minutes to go and Langley leading 5-3, Rivermen defenceman Logan Smith took a penalty. The Chiefs pulled Gillam for an extra attacker, to make it a two man advantage for the Chiefs.
The Rivermen not only killed it off, but McLain iced the game with an empty netter.
With the win the 'Men leaped over the slumping Coquitlam Express for fourth place in the Mainland, and still have two games in hand.
The last time the Rivermen held a playoff spot was back on Oct. 20, and the win also put them back to a .500 record for the first time since Nov. 19.
Hogg, who faced 46 shots, picked up his second win of the year. Campbell was named the first star of the game, while Puskarich was the third star.
@ Copyright 2013