Itâ€™s official: the Langley Rivermen are the 2013/14 B.C. Hockey League regular season champions.
Wins by the Rivermen over their Mainland Division rival Prince George Spruce Kings Thursday and Friday clinched the league title and with it, the coveted Ron Boileau Memorial Trophy.
This marks the first time in the Rivermenâ€™s short history that they have accomplished this feat.
"It means a great deal," Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson said. "At the end of the day, they [the players] won a regular season championship and that was a goal of ours coming out of the gate. It’s a nice milestone, for sure. It’s something these guys can carry with them for the rest of their hockey careers and the rest of their lives. It’s quite an honour."
The â€™Men sealed the deal Friday with a 2-1 win over the Spruce Kings at the Prince George Coliseum.
With the victory, the Rivermen finished the season with a league-best 37-13-3-5 record for 82 points.
The next closest team in the overall standings was the Island Division champion Victoria Grizzlies (37-15-3-3), who garnered 80 points.
Henderson said that while balanced scoring (six players with 40 or more points) and a stingy defence (their 155 goals allowed over 58 games ranked second amongst BCHL teams) were obvious factors in the team’s success this season, team character was crucial.
"The main ingredient was the character in our [dressing] room," Henderson said. "We battled through a lot of adversity, from our schedule, to different injuries and illnesses, to all kinds of internal stuff. For them to stay focused for 58 games says a lot about the character in our room."
In the Rivermen’s final regular season game on Friday, Langleyâ€™s Matt Ustaski snapped a 1-1 tie with what turned out to be the game winner at the 8:57 mark of the third period.
Ustaskiâ€™s team-leading 29th of the season was set up by defenceman Viktor Dombrovskiy and rookie forward Darien Craighead.
The â€™Men trailed 1-0 after the first period and knotted the game at a goal apiece on a goal from their captain Mitch McLain 7:31 into the middle frame.
Rivermen goaltender Brock Crossthwaite stopped 23 of 24 Spruce Kings shots to earn his 24th win of the season, second amongst BCHL goaltenders behind West Kelownaâ€™s Andy Desautels (27). However, Crossthwaite played nine fewer games than Desautels.
Crossthwaite had an all-star calibre regular season with a 24-9-1 record, a 2.42 goals against average (third best in the BCHL), three shutouts (tied with four other goalies for first in the league), and a .913 save percentage (sixth in the BCHL).
Rivermen 5, Prince George Spruce Kings 3
In Thursdayâ€™s opener of their two-games-in-two-nights set at the Prince George Coliseum, McLain snapped a 3-3 tie with 6:27 to go in regulation time.
It turned out to be the winner as Ustaski potted his second of the night into the empty net with 36 seconds to go to seal the win.
The Rivermen led 2-0 after the first period on goals from Jakob Reichert and Ustaski.
The Spruce Kings came to life in the second frame, with goals off the sticks of Austin Gray and Chad Staley.
But with 47 seconds to go in the second period, a goal from Tyson Witala put the Rivermen ahead 3-2.
The hosts tied the score at 3-3 when Braiden Epp scored 1:16 into the final frame.
The Rivermen outshot the Spruce Kings 37-27.
ICE CHIPS: With the title come the luxury of having home ice advantage throughout the Fred Page (BCHL) playoffs.
The Rivermen will now take on the Surrey Eagles in the opening round of the BCHL playoffs.
The series features the first and fourth place teams in the BCHL’s Mainland Division.
The Eagles ended up with a 25-30-1-2 record. Last season, Surrey won the regular season title, captured the Fred Page Cup as BCHL playoff champions, and made it all the way to the semifinal of the RBC Cup national championship.
Henderson said the Eagles will present a tough test.
"They are a pretty high octane team, offensively," Henderson said, regarding an Eagles team that that tallied 201 goals during the regular season. "They have some younger guys who are developing well and they’re peaking at the right time. We’re going to have our hands full in the first round."
The series will follow a 2-2-1-1-1 format.
Earning home-ice advantage with their first ever division title, the Rivermen will host the first two games before the series shifts to the South Surrey Arena.
Game one of the best-of-seven series goes this Tuesday, March 4 at the Langley Events Centre with a 7:15 p.m. opening puck drop.
After Tuesday, the series schedule is as follows:
Game 2 â€“ Wednesday, March 5 at the LEC, at 7:15 p.m.
Game 3 â€“ Friday, March 7 at South Surrey Arena at 7 p.m.
Game 4 â€“ Saturday, March 8 at South Surrey Arena at 7 p.m.
*Game 5 â€“ Monday, March 10 at the Langley Events Centre at 7:15 p.m.
*Game 6 â€“ Tuesday, March 11 at South Surrey Arena at 7 p.m.
*Game 7 â€“ Wednesday, March 12 at the George Preston Recreation Centre at 7:15 p.m.
* Denotes if necessary
Tickets are on sale now.
Fans who purchase a ticket to both games one and two will receive a complimentary Rivermen toque.
This limited time offer is available online only at www.ticketmaster.ca and only if the tickets are purchased prior to puck drop on March 4.