A weekend that began with promise, ended up with a pair of narrow losses for the Langley Rivermen as they gained just two of a possible six points.
The junior A hockey club began a busy stretch of three games in three days with a 5-2 win over the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday, before losing 3-1 to the host Surrey Eagles and then 4-3 back at home at the Langley Events Centre against the Trail Smoke Eaters.
Langley coach and general manager Bobby Henderson said Friday’s victory was arguably the team’s best performance of the season as they had all facets of the game going.
Against the Silverbacks, the teams traded power play goals in the opening 20 minutes, with Alex Jewell striking for the visitors, while Austin Azurdia responding for the home side.
The Rivermen would take control with a pair of second-period goals off the sticks of Jakob Reichert and Aaron Dolby, respectively.
Mario Puskarich made it 4-1 early in the third and after Josh Bowes got the visitors back within a pair, Puskarich added his second of the period into the empty net. It was also his fourth point of the game. He leads the BCHL scoring race with 30 goals and 61 points.
James Barr made 38 saves for the win.
Unfortunately, that proved to be the highlight of the weekend.
Goals were much harder to come by the following night at the South Surrey Arena as the Eagles won for the fifth time in six tries against Langley.
Surrey had the only goal of the opening frame thanks to a short-handed marker from Nicolas Pierog.
Trevor Cope did pull Langley even in the second period with a man-advantage goal, but with less than a minute to go before intermission, Kevan Kilistoff scored a power-play goal to put the Eagles ahead for good.
Trevor Cameron added an insurance marker with 6:30 to go in the third.
Barr made 36 saves in the losing effort as the Rivermen were outshot 39-31.
After a poor start against Surrey, Henderson was impressed with his team’s bounce back but the team failed in converting its scoring chances.
And that lack of finish carried over to Sunday’s matinee, where Langley fired 48 pucks on net but only came up with three goals.
With the score tied at three in the third period, the Rivermen had a glorious opportunity for the go-ahead goal but Puskarich was denied by Lyndon Stanwood on a penalty shot. A few minutes later, Trail capitalized on the power play for the winning tally.
“(Trail) went 2-for-5 on the power play and we went 1-for-6,” Henderson said. “That was the difference.”
Reichert, Mark Whiteley and Evan Anderson had the Rivermen goals while Jesse Knowler, Scott Davidson, Adam Wheeldon and Braden Pears replied for Trail.
Darren Hogg took the loss in goal, stopping 35 of the 39 shots he faced.
The Rivermen travel to Surrey to face the Eagles on Saturday (Feb. 2). They also have a rare Tuesday night game on Feb. 5 against the Coquitlam Express. The Express (18-25-1-0, 37 points) trail Langley (17-18-1-5, 40 points) by three points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mainland Division.