Playoff hockey got underway Friday night as the Langley Rivermen made the drive west to face off against the top team in the BCHL – the Coquitlam Express. The Rivermen had some good news going into game one as their leading scorer Brendan Budy made his return to the lineup after battling an injury throughout the month of February. However, the injury bug hit Tristan Fraser this week and he will miss some time with a finger injury. Jonathan Mor was between the pipes for this one as the Rivermen started their mission of slaying the dragon.
The first period was back and forth, good hard-hitting playoff hockey. The Rivermen found themselves in the penalty box three times, but were able to weather the storm. The Express solved Mor with under five minutes left in the period. Joey Berkopec picked up his first goal of the playoffs and with assists to Ryan Tattle and Massimo Rizzo. When the horn went to end the first period, the Express led the game 1-0 and the shot clock 15-6.
The second period was much like the first with a lot of hard hitting action. Penalties hurt the Rivermen in the middle frame as Rizzo picked up a power play goal just over 10 minutes in off of a nice play set up by Steven Bellini and Danny Pearson.
The Express then added to their lead with under three minutes to go in the second with another power play goal. This time it was a back door play set up by again by Bellini and Pearson with Will Margel finishing it off. After scoring two power play goals in the middle period the Express headed into the intermission with a 3-0 lead. Shots on goal were 28-14 in favour of Coquitlam.
The third period was not fun for the Rivermen. They ended up in the box more than a team would like to be in the playoffs. During the first few minutes, Langley had its share of chances, but couldn’t solve goaltender Jack Watson. The Express added to their lead just over eight minutes in as Nicholas Carabin scored his first of the post season with assists to Ethan O’Rourke and Rizzo.
Shortly after that, Rizzo picked up his second of the game on a power play, the helpers to Margel and Pearson. After a lot of rough stuff in the final frame including a fight between Ryan Helliwell and Tyler Schleppe, the Rivermen were finally able to solve Watson. It came in the final minute from Sean Bunting off a pass from Jonathan Stein. The final minute saw more rough stuff, but the Express held on and take game one by a score of 5-1.
Back to the drawing board
The score in the game doesn’t exactly dictate the actual play on the ice. The Rivermen didn’t play bad hockey, they just had some moments they wish they could forget. The Express went 3 for 9 on the power play which definitely hurt the Rivermen. For Langley to win, the Riv will need to stay out of the box (yes, I know it is cliche, but it’s true) and they will need to shut down the top line of the Express. They can’t let a guy like Rizzo get time and space or he will create a lot of scoring chances.
Like Drake said in his song Sacrificies – “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but I still gotta win the race.” Game one is always a feeling out process, a number of crazy things can happen in a seven game series.
I’m still going with the Rivermen in six.