The Langley Rivermen have hit some turbulent waters in the new year.
Counting Tuesday night’s 5-2 home-ice loss to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Langley’s junior A hockey team is 2-5 in January, and have slipped to second place in the B.C. Hockey League’s Mainland Division.
The Rivermen (20-14-10-2) now sit two points back of the Prince George Spruce Kings and Surrey Eagles, tied for top spot in the division with 54 points each.
All three of the aforementioned teams have clinched a playoff spot with the Chilliwack Chiefs sitting fourth, five points back of the Rivermen and the struggling Coquitlam Express occupying the division basement with a 13-29-1-3 mark.
Against the Silverbacks, the Rivermen were without their two main offensive weapons in captain Brendan Budy along with Angus Crookshank, who were playing in the CJHL Prospects Game in Mississauga, Ont. (Port Credit Memorial Arena).
Between Budy and Crookshank, that’s 30 goals and 73 points missing from the Rivermen’s lineup. Budy leads the Rivermen in scoring with 15 goals and 26 assists.
Budy not available
Tuesday at the George Preston Recreation Centre (GPRC), the Rivermen erased a 2-0 third period deficit, only to see the Silverbacks score three unanswered goals (including an empty netter with 49 seconds to play in regulation).
The Silverbacks’ Justin Wilson snapped the 2-2 tie at the 14:25 mark of the third period.
Wilson’s marker turned out to be the game winner, with Salmon Arm’s Nick Unruh adding an insurance goal 3:44 later.
Then, with Rivermen goaltender Braedon Fleming on the bench for an extra attacker, the Silverbacks’ Tanner Campbell deposited the puck into the empty Langley net to cap the night’s scoring.
The goal was Campbell’s second of the night.
The Silverbacks outshot the Rivermen 34-22.
After falling behind 2-0 after 40 minutes, the Rivermen rallied in the third on goals from Ethan Leyh and Sean Gulka on a power play to tie the game, but couldn’t find the net again after that.
Considering the number of affiliate players in his team’s lineup, Langley head coach Bobby Henderson was happy with the ‘Men’s resolve against the Silverbacks.
“They played hard,” Henderson said. “To come back in the third and make a game of it, I was proud of the effort and character. Their go-ahead goal was unfortunate (for us) and then they got an empty netter. So it’s one of those nights. We were missing some pretty good players out of our lineup and the affiliates who came in worked hard and contributed.”
Along with Budy and Crookshank, the Rivermen were minus forwards Trevor St. Jean (12 goals, 23 points), Brady Berger, and Tanner Versluis against the Silverbacks.
“We’ve got all hands on deck and we’re trying to get through it,” Henderson said. “At this time of the year everybody’s bumped up and sick, and we’ll push hard down the stretch and try to put ourselves in the the best position for the playoffs.”
The Rivermen return to action with a pair of games this weekend.
On Friday, they host the Prince George Spruce Kings at the GPRC, with a 7 p.m. opening faceoff.
On Saturday, the Rivermen travel to Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre to take on the Chiefs with a 7 p.m. start time.
Budy, Crookshank, and Team West defeated Team East 5-2.
Crookshank opened the scoring 13:08 into the opening frame, and delivered a beautiful setup to Chilliwack Chiefs’ forward Corey Andonovski to make it 2-1 Team West in the second period (Budy picked up the second assist on Andonovski’s goal).
Budy also posted a helper in the third period as both Rivermen finished with two points.
Rosters for the Prospects Game were chosen in partnership with NHL Central Scouting and are made up of players recommended by NHL Central Scouting.
The skaters and goalies play in front of scouts from all over the hockey world, including the NHL, NCAA, Major Junior and Canadian universities and colleges.
Budy and Crookshank are ranked 138th and 139th among North American skaters when NHL Central Scouting released its midseason rankings on Monday.
Both have a chance to get selected by NHL teams when the The 2018 NHL entry draft is held in Dallas June 22 and 23.