Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rivermen 6 Eagles 3

Six unanswered goals helped the Langley Rivermen re-claim a series lead as they doubled the Surrey Eagles 6-3 Friday at South Surrey Arena.

Matt Ustaski scored twice, including the eventual game-winning goal early in the third period, and tempers flared toward the end of regulation time as the heated rivalry between Surrey and Langley hit a new boiling point.

The Eagles shot out of the gate Friday, outshooting Langley 9-1 over the first thirteen minutes and scoring the opening goal just past the 4 and a half minute mark. Nathan Renouf rifled a wrist shot over Langley netminder Brock Crossthwaite's right pad for his second goal of the playoffs, moments after a lovely cross-ice feed from Anthony Conti.

Surrey poured the offense at the Langley net, but were forced to defend steadfastly in the latter stages of the opening frame. Netminder Bo Didur stopped all ten shots he faced in period one.

The Rivermen used an early second-period power-play to get back in the game, though. Veteran defenseman Zach Urban fired a shot through traffic from the left wing to even the score.

Undaunted, the Eagles fought back through the middle frame, coming closest to recapturing the lead when the Renouf twins forced a pair of turnovers deep in the Langley zone. Crossthwaite made his best save of the night robbing Nathan at the left post, moments before Eagles rearguard Kale Bennett ripped a point shot off the post.

Langley struck twice in the final 3 and a half minutes of period two in a turning point to Friday's game. First, on a power-play, Ustaski found the back of the net from the side of Didur's goal before Jakob Reichert banged home a rebound with 1:18 left in the frame to give the Rivermen a 3-1 lead heading into the intermission.

Ustaski has left his stamp on this first-round series with five goals in three games, the most recent of which came early in period three when, after racing down the left flank, laced a snapshot into the top corner of Didur's net to give Langley a 4-1 lead. Former Eagle Kevan Kilistoff added insult to injury just before the midpoint of the third period, outwaiting Didur on a clearcut chance in front of the net before Darien Craighead rounded out the visitors' offensive run from the slot at 11:08.

The Eagles scored on a pair of two-man advantages late in the game to narrow the scoreline, first through Chase McMurphy, who snapped his second goal in as many games past Crossthwaite from the left-wing circle.

The second two-man advantage came as the result of something entirely different. After Domenic Masellis was hit at centre ice, the two sides gathered in front of the Langley bench, tussling until first, Kilistoff knocked Eagles forward Sam Chatterley to the ice then, Chatterley's linemate Mitch Fyffe was engaged by a Rivermen player seated on his bench, sparking a wild fracas in the neutral zone that led to seven misconducts. After plenty of allusion to past incidents between the two sides, the late antics were the most marked of any malfaisance to occur thus far this series, though tempers cooled during the long delay following the incident.

On the ensuing power-play, Surrey defenseman Matt Dawson rounded out the evening's offense by wristing a point shot past Crossthwaite's left pad.

Didur made 30 saves Friday, including a penalty shot late in the third period off Marcus Vela. Crossthwaite earned the victory with a 28-save performance. The Rivermen now lead the series 2-1.

My Three Stars:
1. Matt Ustaski, Langley
2. Jakob Reichert, Langley
3. Zach Urban, Langley

Up Next:
Surrey will try to even the series in Saturday's Game Four at South Surrey Arena. Game time is 7:00 pm.

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