Langley Rivermen host Spruce Kings

The Langley Rivermen will get a break in their B.C. Hockey League schedule following tonight’s (Jan. 29) home game against the Prince George Spruce Kings.

After tonight, the ’Men don’t play again until Friday, Feb. 6, when they travel to Powell River to play the Kings. This is the first of three consecutive Vancouver Island road games that has the Rivermen heading to Nanaimo on Saturday to play the Clippers and Victoria on Sunday afternoon to face the Grizzlies.

The Rivermen’s latest game was a 4-3 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters, this past Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.

It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was good enough for a ‘W’ against a pesky foe, as the Rivermen snuck past the Smoke Eaters on Back to Business Night.

Marcus Vela scored twice and Gage Torrel had a goal and two assists as Langley’s B.C. Hockey League team won its 14th home game this season.

Langley netminder Darren Martin made 35 saves to pick up his ninth win of the season.

The Smoke Eaters, who were coming off a wild 8-7 overtime loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs the night before in Chilliwack, played the Rivermen tough, outshooting the home team 38-28.

“They [Trail] had a hard fought battle yesterday,” Rivermen assistant coach Kurt Astle said, after the win. “We knew today they wouldn’t go away. We wanted to maintain our composure and not get sucked in; we defended well, identified their top guys and at the end of the day those are two big points for us.”

“We came in with some injuries and were down a couple of players,” Vela said. “The AP’s [affiliate players] who came in played really well for us and the whole team rallied together. It might not be the prettiest game but we got it done.”

On a night where they played without their captain, the Rivermen got production from all four lines as well as some timely saves by Martin, who looked sharp the entire game.

“We didn’t have our best game defensively,” Astle said. “We caused some unnecessary turnovers and gave up a couple breakaways but lucky for us Darren was there to save the day.”

Kevan Kilistoff, who scored the game-winner goal against Chilliwack last Wednesday, was resting a lower body injury which occurred in that game.

Langley led 2-1 after the first period thanks to goals by Colton Kehler and Vela.

They would add two more in the second as Vela and Torrel scored special team goals to put the Rivermen up 4-2 after 40 minutes. With the net empty, the Smoke Eaters scored a late six-on-five goal to cut the deficit to one, but that’s as close as they would get as the ‘Men stretched their home winning streak to a season-high three games.

“We’ve had a lot more depth scoring lately,” Astle noted. “That’s definitely contributing to our recent success and if you’re going to have any success in the playoffs you need that. We’ve got a little bit of a break coming up so it’s a much deserved rest and then get ready for Prince George.”

The Rivermen’s record is 25-16-1-4. They trail the Chilliwack by one point in the battle for top spot in the B.C. Hockey League’s five-team Mainland Division.

The Chiefs also have a game in hand.

ICE CHIPS: Force and Scully, the Green Men were in attendance thanks to Pacific Coastal Airlines and were taking pictures, signing autographs and performed their famous penalty box routines.

Rivermen 4, Chilliwack Chiefs 3

Kilistoff scored the winner with just under seven minutes to play in the third period, and Matt Graham scored a goal and an assist as the Rivermen skated to a come from behind win over the visiting Chiefs Wednesday at the LEC.

In another fast-paced battle between the division rivals, the Rivermen trailed 3-2 after two periods, but controlled most of the final frame which included two goals.

The end result: they defeated the Chiefs for the third straight time.

“We came out strong in the first and played a good period,” Kilistoff said. “In the second, we started off slow and they took advantage but we kept it simple in the third and played our game. Graham went in hard on the forecheck, stayed with the puck, made a smart play, and I was able to put it home.”

Langley trailed 1-0 midway through the first period when Chiefs’ forward Craig Puffer scored his team leading 21st of the season on the power play, putting home a rebound past Langley goaltender Bo Didur.

The Rivermen answered quickly, scoring two goals in 1:04 as Graham scored his 14th of the year and his fifth in as many games to even the game at one.

Langley then took the lead on a delayed penalty when Torrel deflected home a Dante Hahn point shot to give the hosts a 2-1 lead heading into the second period.

“I liked how we competed,” Astle said. “We battled back and the guys showed their heart tonight.”

Chilliwack scored its own back-to-back goals early in the second period as Kurt Black and Ryan Roseboom answered with goals 14 seconds apart to put the Chiefs up 3-2 after 40 minutes.

“To give up back-to-back goals is unacceptable,” Kilistoff said. “We weren’t mentally ready in that period and it cost us. Luckily we found a way to compose ourselves and answer in the third.”

After being in Oakville, Ont., the previous night, Didur got the surprise start in net for Langley and looked sharp, stopping 31 of 34 shots in the win.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to play tonight,” Didur said. “Once I arrived at the rink I was able to go through the routine and get settled in.”

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