Friday, November 2, 2012

Game Preview: at Langley Rivermen

Kirk Thompson (1) turns aside Mario Puskarich (18)
in the game played October 19th (photo

It is becoming commonplace to play the Langley Rivermen every other weekend, but after tonight that frequency will come to an end. It is the fifth meeting of the season between these two teams since September 9th with the four previous games all being decided by a single goal.

Both teams have registered a pair of wins over the other, but the Rivermen do lead the season series with six points while the Spruce Kings have four points. The difference being Prince George's wins have both come in overtime while Langley picked up their wins in regulation time. Interestingly enough both teams have scored 16 goals on each other, which goes against their typical averages.

These two teams have engaged in some memorable battles with no lead ever being safe between the two. In the two overtime wins posted by the Spruce Kings, they never led in either game having to battle back from multiple goal deficits to force overtime. The Langley Rivermen have held leads in games they have won but are better known for their late goal heroics, scoring game winners with 2:39 and 0.3 seconds remaining.

The Langley Rivermen are coming off a low scoring 2-1 overtime loss to the Surrey Eagles on Thursday night. Through seventeen games, the Rivermen have a goals for average of 3.29 and a goals against average of 3.18. Taking the games against Prince George out of the mix, those numbers drop to 3.08 for and 2.92 against.

The Spruce Kings see a similar trend with a 3.53 goals for average through 17 games and 3.38 in the thirteen games played against teams other than Langley. Prince George has an impressive 1.88 goals against average when Langley isn't considered and a 2.71 when all games are factored into the equation.

Twice in the month of October the Langley Rivermen picked up Player of the Week honours. First it was Austin Azurdia after his highlight reel goal and that was followed up this past weekend by Mario Puskarich and his seven points (4G, 3A) in three games. In between those two POW's was one for Spruce Kings netminder, Kirk Thompson who was recently featured in the Province Newspaper for his "unrattled" performance between the pipes.

The Spruce Kings are currently riding a season high six-game win streak and are sitting in top spot in the Mainland Division with an 11-4-1-1 record and 24 points. Those stats earned the team their first ever National recognition landing in the Canadian Junior Hockey League's (CJHL) Top Twenty weekly rankings.

Certainly a feather in the cap of the Spruce Kings organization and validation of the team's hard work on the ice, coach Dave Dupas uses caution when talking about the honour and expects the players to stay hungry for more. While answering questions from the media throughout the week, the common response was to not ease up or deviate from the game plan that got the team there in the first place - rather to strive for a higher rung on the rankings' ladder.

The Spruce Kings come into the weekend as healthy as they ever have with only David London remaining on the injured reserve list; although he too has taken to the ice as of this week. Tanner Fjellstrom has been participating in team practices for over a week now and has made his first road trip with the team since an injury in the preseason sidelined the rookie forward.

Friday night's game will be the first time Lyndon Martell will have been back on the ice at the Langley Events Centre after being hit with a heavy blow to the head in the game on October 6th. Martell missed a total of five games while Evan Campbell was given a two game suspension for the hit.

Martell and Mitch Eden are the overtime heros for the Spruce Kings against the Rivermen while Austin Azurdia and Derek Sutliffe have the game winners for Langley. With the amount of goals scored between these two teams, it is anybody's guess as to who will be the game changer in this meeting. Although a strong argument can be made for Austin Azurdia and Justin Rai. Azurdia has 5 goals and an assist in four games vs PG while Rai has 4 goals and 1 assist in three games.

One thing is for sure, with the history that these two teams have created already this season, this is arguably the game of the night in the BCHL. There are seven games on the League schedule today. Chilliwack has made the long journey into Trail to take on the Smoke Eaters and Coquitlam has headed off to the other BCHL outpost to faceoff against the Powell River Kings tonight. The other Mainland Divisional opponent, the Surrey Eagles are in Merritt for a 7:30 meeting with the Centennials.

Game time for the Spruce Kings and Rivermen is 7:15pm from the LEC with a live broadcast available on 93.1 CFIS-FM. The free audio broadcast will be available online from the community radio station's website and the pay-per-view broadcast will be on The Treasure Cove Casino pregame show will start at 6:45pm with Ron Gallo featuring stats and conversations with players and coaches. During the first intermission there will be an interview with Spruce Kings alumni and NHL'er Brad Thiessen.

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