Take Friday night’s rather surprising 2-1 loss to the visiting Merritt Centennials out of the equation, and the Langley Rivermen are on a roll heading into December.
A bounce-back, 4-2 win over the West Kelowna Warriors Saturday at the Langley Events Centre gives the ’Men five wins in their last six games to close out November.
The Rivermen’s record now stands at 17-12, and they sit third in the B.C. Hockey League’s Mainland Division, two points back of the second-place Wenatchee Wild (16-8-2-2) and five behind the front-running Chilliwack Chiefs (18-6-1-2).
The Rivermen have a light schedule ahead.
They head to Salmon Arm this Saturday to play the Silverbacks, then don’t play again until the following Saturday, Dec. 12, when they host the Vernon Vipers at the LEC.
It’s a much welcome rest for the Rivermen, especially considering what happened to their leading scorer and assistant captain Matthew Graham early in the third period versus West Kelowna.
Graham was facing the boards, retrieving the puck when he was hit by a Warriors’ defencemen. Graham’s face and head crashed into the glass and he fell to the ice in a heap.
The play continued, with Graham’s linemate Dominic Franco making a nice power move to the front of the net to score, making it 4-1 for the home team.
Graham was able to get up on his own and skate to the bench but didn’t play another shift.
Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson noted that Graham didn’t see any game action after the hit “for precautionary reasons.”
“Obviously there are concussion concerns so it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Henderson said.
On Tuesday, Henderson reported that Graham, who has 14 goals and 36 points in 29 games (tied with three other players for fifth in league scoring) is healthy and will be ready to play this weekend.
Graham and his teammates will get some much-needed down time this week and next after playing 12 games in 24 days this past month, including some back-to-back, and back-to-back-to-back, weekends.
“It’s been a grind so [the light schedule] couldn’t come at a better time,” Henderson said. “The guys are pretty banged up. It’s also good to get mentally rested.”
Looking back at this past weekend, the Rivermen won two of three, beating Prince George by a 4-1 count Thursday at the LEC before their loss to Merritt on Friday and win over West Kelowna on Saturday.
Merritt 2, Rivermen 1
The loss to Merritt ended the Rivermen’s four-game unbeaten streak and proved that all opponents are capable of winning on any given night.
The Cents had lost six in a row and were coming off an 11-8 loss in their own barn to the Surrey Eagles on Wednesday night, and despite the win over the Rivermen, sit last in the BCHL’s Interior Division with a 9-19-0-2 record.
The Rivermen outshot the Cents 45-25 but goaltender Cole Kehler stopped all but one (a power play goal by Langley defenceman Troy Ring 2:12 into the third period) in leading the visitors to victory.
“We ran into a hot goaltender team and they [the Centennials] were looking to end their slide,” Henderson said. “They were embarrassed in their home rink and were looking to redeem themselves. Give them full credit for the win.”
Rivermen 4, West Kelowna Warriors 2
Doubling the Warriors is a confidence booster for the Rivermen, who, Henderson said, had all four lines going with everyone contributing in different ways.
“I think everybody was ready to go, right from drop of the puck,” Henderson said.
Torrin White, Cameron Ginnetti, Adam Sinclair, and Franco scored for the Rivermen, who led 1-0 after the first period and 3-1 after 40 minutes before trading third period goals with the Warriors.
Goaltender Bo Didur had a solid night for the ’Men, stopping 33 of 35 shots. He was named second star of the game.