Saturday, October 6, 2012

Game Preview: at Langley Rivermen

Spruce Kings at Langley Rivermen 7:15pm

The Spruce Kings continue their three game weekend roadtrip through the Mainland Division with a stop tonight in the Langley Events Centre to take on the Langley Rivermen. It will be the second meeting of the season between the teams with the Spruce Kings posting a 6-5 come-from-behind overtime win during the BCHL Showcase.

In that September 9th game, the Spruce Kings erased a 3-0 deficit in the second period to tie it up and then had to erase a 5-3 deficit in the third to force the overtime. Lyndon Martell became the hero with an off balance shot from a sharp angle giving the Spruce Kings their second win to start the season.

The Spruce Kings are coming off a big 4-1 win last night in Surrey and will be looking to carry that momentum with them into the LEC tonight - something they didn't do last weekend. In their second consecutive three game weekend in as many weeks, Prince George is hoping not to fall in the same trap they did last time when they started with a 5-2 win only to suffer their first regulation time loss the following night.

Certainly the Spruce Kings have learned a few things along the way already this season and one is not to take another team too lightly but also to be persistent and stick to a game plan. That approach was the difference last night when the Spruce Kings limited the Surrey Eagles to just 28 shots blocking at least that many on the larger ice surface.

The LEC is not an Olympic size rink like the South Surrey Arena, but it is a large fairly new facility that saw construction finished in the Spring of 2009. Home to the Trinity Western University athletics, the Spartans basketball, volleyball and hockey teams play out of the LEC as does the Langley Thunder lacrosse team and of course the Langley Rivermen.

The largest sports and recreation project in Langley's history to date was constructed at a cost of $56 million with funding coming from the Langley Township, the province and private builders. The facility has a combined seating capacity of over 7,500 with the gymnasium holding 2,200 and the arena another 5,500. Other highlights of the facility include a gymnastics training centre, a 243 meter indoor walking track and banquet hall.

The Langley Rivermen themselves are essentially a new team in the BCHL playing in only their second season although junior hockey has been in Langley since 1973 with the Langley Lords. The history of junior hockey in Langley is not a continuous one and to say it is a bit of tangle is an understatement with teams coming and going, leaving a hole that lasted 15 years.

In 1994 a new BCHL franchise was started up adopting the name of the 1979 Langley Thunder. They would change their name to the Langley Hornets to start the 1998/99 season and play as the Hornets until the end of the 2005/06 season. At that time the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL were about to loose their home in Prospera Centre to a Western Hockey League.

The Hornets ownership had been struggling in recent years and were resigned to packing up and moving to the Okanagan to play in a new facility being built in West Kelowna. The Chiefs became the benefactor of that decision and relocated into Langley as the Langley Chiefs where they would play until the end of the 2010/11 season.

That was also the last season of the Chilliwack Bruins in Prospera Centre as they moved to Victoria to become the Royals. In Quesnel, financial troubles with the Millionaires saw that team fold and were purchased by the ownership group in Chilliwack that still owned the BCHL rights to the name Chiefs. The Langley team was split with a new ownership group coming on board and renaming the team the Langley Rivermen.

In a bit of rebuild in their first season, the Langley Rivermen finished with a record of 19-35-1-5 missing the post season. This season the Rivermen have a lot more experience and depth and will be a contender for a playoff spot. Don't let their current standings fool you, this team may be in the basement but they have played the fewest amount of games of all the teams in the League.

Currently sitting with 7 points in 6 games, the Rivermen are a +9 in goal differential averaging over 4 goals a game. Leading the way offensively is Mario Puskarich with 9 points (3G, 6A), five of those coming in a 7-0 win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Trevor Cope, a rookie out of Commerce Michigan, is arguably the teams most consistent player with at least one point in each of his six games played (4G, 4A).

Evan Campbell is the team's leading points per game player with an average of 2.7 points over his three games played (2G, 6A). The setup man on the top line, Campbell is a committed player to UMass next season. Bo Pellah is another offensive threat with 7 points (1G, 6A) to start his rookie season as a 17 year old blueliner.

Between the pipes the Langley Rivermen have a pair of 19 year olds with second year netminder James Barr considered the team's number one. Barr has been in net for five of the team's six games including the loss to Prince George posting a record of 3 wins and 2 losses. His numbers (2.51 GAA and 90.7 SV%) are good enough to put him eighth among League goaltenders with a minimum of two games played.

Both of the Rivermen goaltenders are big - Barr is 6' 1" 198 lbs and Darren Hogg at 6' 2" 200lbs. Hogg has only played in one game suffering the loss in a 3-2 decision to the Coquitlam Express in Coquitlam. It is not certain who the Rivermen will start between the pipes tonight, but it is expected that Prince George will see both goaltenders this weekend with the teams playing back to back games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

As mentioned the Spruce Kings come into the game riding a high after a 4-1 win over the Surrey Eagles Friday night. Bryant Christian was robbed of a first star in that game after playing his best game of the season picking up an assist on the game winning goal and adding the insurance marker. Both goals were a direct result of Christian's ability to win the puck battles along the wall and come up with the scoring chances afterwards.

A number of players were playing in front of family and friends last night including Kirk Thompson who had a great game and was able to see everything coming his way. Thompson posted 20 saves on 21 shots with only a seeing eye shot from the high slot finding the back of the net. Thompson can credit the bodies in front of him for blocking the shots and keeping many others to low percentage chances.

A nice trait of the Spruce Kings showing itself early this season is a balanced attack that is built from a strong defensive presence. The leading point getters on the team still include the two Ontario d-men in Brad Ryan (2G, 7A) and Mitch Eden (1G, 8A). Coltyn Hansen has climbed the ladder to share top spot with his 2 goals and 7 assists as well.

Once the game was put out of reach last night, it turned a little ugly with a pair of separate minor altercations coming in the final minute of the period. It is not known at this time if those will result in any further actions in the form of suspensions or just warnings from the League.

Tonight's game has a scheduled 7:15 puck drop and will be available on 93.1 CFIS-FM with a free online audio broadcast from the station's website ( Barring any unforeseen technical issues, the pay-per-view feed will be available on beginning with the pregame show at 6:45pm.

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