Saturday in West Kelowna, the Langley Rivermen fell a couple of goals short of making it three wins in a row – but you couldn’t fault their effort.
Their brief win streak was halted at two after a hard-fought, 3-2 loss to the host Warriors at Royal LePage Place.
Heading into Saturday’s game, the Rivermen were on a mini-roll.
They clipped the Surrey Eagles 4-2 Thursday in South Surrey and blanked the Vernon Vipers 2-0 Friday in Vernon, before their one-goal loss to the Warriors to cap a brutal road-trip.
Expecting the Rivermen – or any team in the B.C. Hockey League for that matter – to win three road games in as many days, all on enemy ice, is a ridiculously tough ask.
However, Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson wasn’t going to use the schedule as an excuse, noting that the ’Men played a great game against the Warriors in a losing effort.
“Actually, I can’t agree with that,” Henderson responded, when asked if he thought his team’s schedule played a role in Saturday’s loss. “Considering it was our third game in three nights, I thought we played exceptionally well [versus the Warriors]. We had really good jump and I thought we were physical. I was pretty proud of the way we played.”
Henderson said every BCHL team is in the same boat when it comes to a busy schedule, especially after Christmas.
“Its been a tough stretch for us, no doubt, but most of the teams go through it,” Henderson said. “We have to make sure were prepared when we play. We have to be ready.”
He continued, “It takes its toll but that’s part of the experience. Having our leaders go through it with them, helps our young guys. Right around Christmas we hit the wall a little bit, but we’ve been improving steadily the last couple of weeks.”
Next weekend is more of the same.
The Rivermen play Thursday in Prince George, Saturday in Coquitlam, and Sunday afternoon at home, where they will face the Victoria Grizzlies with a 3 p.m. opening puck drop at the Langley Events Centre.
The ‘Men will put a cap on their season two days later. And they’ll be travelling all the way down to Wenatchee, Wash., to do it, facing the Wild at the Toyota Town Centre on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
West Kelowna Warriors 3, Rivermen 2
The Warriors built a 3-1 lead after two periods and then hung on to edge the Rivermen.
Trevor Ayre scored the only goal of the third period for the Rivermen. At the 7:32 mark of the second period, Matty Saharchuk tied the score at a goal apiece with his 21st marker of the campaign.
The Warriors then scored back-to-back goals in the second half of the middle frame to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Fine start to trip
In what’s been a pretty turbulent season thus far, the Rivermen found themselves on smoother waters with a pair of wins earlier in the weekend.
Friday night in Vernon, goaltender Bo Didur stopped all 29 shots he faced as the ’Men blanked the host Vipers 2-0.
Jason O’Neill with 13 seconds to go in the first period and Max Kaufman with an insurance marker late in the middle frame provided the offence for the Rivermen.
The win avenged the Rivermen’s 7-4 loss to the Vipers Dec. 12 at the LEC.
“They are a good team,” Henderson said. “Earlier in the year they came into our building and handed it to us, so in the back of our guys’ minds, they wanted to redeem themselves.”
Didur picked up his second shutout of the season.
“Bo had an excellent weekend,” Henderson said. “It’s nice to see him playing up to his potential.”
On Thursday, the Rivermen doubled up on the host Surrey Eagles 4-2.
Langley defenceman John Schuldt snapped a 2-2 tie with 3:17 to go in regulation to lift the ’Men past the Eagles. The goal stood up as the game winner.
Zachary Bleuler scored with 30 seconds to go in the third period to seal the victory.
Justin Szeto in the first period and Zac Masson in the middle frame scored the other goals for the Rivermen, who built a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes of play before the Eagles stormed back with the back-to-back goals earlier in the third period to tie the game.
Rivermen netminder Nickolas Trenciansky stopped 32 of 34 shots to earn the victory.
The Rivermen are 29-21-3-1 heading into the weekend and sit third in the B.C. Hockey League’s Mainland Division.