The Langley Rivermen closed out their two-day trip through the B.C. Interior in style Saturday night in Salmon Arm.
But they had to work double overtime to do it.
The Rivermen played from behind for most of regulation and were able to claw their way back to tie the score late in the third period, before finishing off the host Silverbacks in one of the most thrilling games you may ever see.
"It was definitely a great win," Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson said, speaking about his team's well deserved 3-2 double OT victory over the 'Backs. "It was the second game on the road [in as many nights] and we went through a lot of adversity with penalties, but I'm proud of our players. They kept it together and at the end of the day got the job done."
It was the first meeting of the season between the two clubs and was the most entertaining game to date.
For the second straight game, the goaltenders stole the show.
The first couple of minutes was a feeling-out process, but halfway through the period the pace began to pick up.
The 'Backs opened up the scoring on a shorthanded goal from Jason Trott.
Off a turnover, the Salmon Arm forward picked up a loose puck in the Langley zone and fired a shot past Langley netminder James Barr for his first of the season.
The Silverbacks carried a 1-0 lead into the break and can thank the strong goaltending of Colin Dzijacky, who stopped every shot he faced.
The second period had a little bit of everything: goals, hits, great saves, and fights. During a Logan Smith and Jason Trott scrap, Mitch McLain decided to drop the mitts with Brendan Kennedy.
As per BCHL rules, if another fight begins when another tilt is going on, those two players receive automatic game misconducts.
After the referee sorted out all the penalties, the Rivermen finally got on the board.
Trevor Cope tied the game near the halfway point of the period on a fluke play in front of the net. Cope took a shot off his stomach from Aaron Dolby that found its way into the back of the net. The goal stretched Cope's point streak to six games.
However, a few minutes later the 'Backs would get the lead back on a powerplay tally from Evan Schwalbe on a scramble in front of Barr.
The third period went back and forth with both teams trading chances for the most part.
The Silverbacks clung to their 2-1 lead for the first 10 minutes, but then ran into penalty trouble.
In the late stages of regulation, the Rivermen went on a powerplay and pulled Barr from the net to make it a two-man advantage.
With under a minute to go in regulation, Bo Pellah found Jakob Reichert on the left wing.
Reichert then made a power move on the backhand and lifted a shot top corner past Dzijacky.
It was a massive goal to say the least as Reichert scored his much-anticipated first of the year in a situation where his team needed it the most.
Overtime was needed and the teams gave the fans what they paid to see.
The 'Men had a few scoring opportunities during four-on-four play, but could not slip one past Dzijacky.
The 'Backs did not have many good scoring chances, but when called upon, Barr made the stops.
Three-on-three was needed and it was an overtime for the ages.
Dzijacky stood on his head, making highlightreel save after save, which had the home crowd going.
Barr then made the save of the season on a Salmon Arm two on one. Sean Flanagan took a great pass in tight but was absolutely robbed by Barr as he stretched across to his left in desperation and made a great glove save to keep overtime going.
A shift later, Evan Campbell found Mario Puskarich behind the defence at centre ice. The Rivermen's top goal-scorer from last season went in and made no mistake, firing a blistering wrist shot blocker side with 58 seconds left.
The win lifted the Rivermen above .500, at 32-0-1. Despite their decent record, the 'Men sit in fifth place in the very competitive B.C. Hockey League Mainland Division.
Henderson said the Rivermen are still finding their feet early in the season.
"We've got guys who haven't played half a dozen games [in the BCHL] yet, so it's a matter of them learning what they can get away with at this level," Henderson said. "The chemistry is continuing to get better in the [locker] room and the team is only going to get better as time goes on."
Merritt Centennials 2, Rivermen 1
The 'Men had trouble penetrating the Centennials' last line of defence Friday in Merritt.
Goaltender Tyler Steel stymied the Rivermen shooters during a 2-1 Cents' victory.
The first meeting of the season between the teams was fast and physical, with lots of shots fired towards both netminders.
Barr faced 38 shots while Steel saw 42 during a game in which they stole the show.
The first few minutes of the opening period were controlled by the Cents.
The hosts could have been up a few goals had it not been for Barr. The Surrey native stopped a trio of Grade A scoring opportunities to keep the goose-egg intact.
At the other end, Steel was just getting his night started by stopping Campbell and Puskarich on back-to-back breakaways in a span of three minutes.
Both puckstoppers stopped 15 shots during the opening 20 minutes.
The Cents broke the deadlock early in the second period.
On a Merritt powerplay, the Cents caught the Rivermen on a line change and Brandon Bruce capitalized on a redirection in front of Barr.
Merritt added to its lead just after the six-minute mark on a quick wrist shot from Derek Huisman that beat Barr over the glove on the short side.
Langley threw everything at the net, but still could not solve Steel as he stopped all 29 shots he saw through two periods of play.
The third period was a lot less frantic. That is, until the dying minutes.
With under two minutes to play, the Cents took a penalty which allowed the 'Men to pull Barr for the extra attacker, making it a two-man advantage.
Campbell would spoil the shutout bid, burying a shot past Steel with just 47 seconds remaining in regulation on a bang-bang play from behind the net.
Cope made a fantastic pass from behind the goal to a wide-open Campbell, who scored his second goal in as many games.
Unfortunately for the 'Men, they could not find a way to tie the game in the dying moments.
ICE CHIPS: Langley's junior A squad will play back-to-back games against the Prince George Spruce Kings at the Langley Events Centre this weekend.
The teams meet Saturday at 7: 15 p.m., then resume acquaintances Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Spruce Kings have bolted out to a 6-2 start to their season.
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