The Express have punched their ticket to the second round of the playoffs with a 5-4 win over the Langley Rivermen to complete a four game sweep of the Mainland division semi final. Click here for boxscore
Game 4 was similar to the previous night with the teams devoting one period to trade goals back and forth. That would come in the second period.
The opening frame saw the Express push the pace early on looking to get the early jump on the Rivermen. They broke through late in the period when Connor Gregga opened the scoring for a second straight night jamming home a loose puck in the goal crease for a 1-0 Express lead.
The second period saw the Express ramp up their effort level looking to expand their lead. Despite a 5-1 advantage in shots to open the period, it was the Rivermen who got a break to pull even. To open an Express powerplay the Rivermen won the face-off and quickly sent the puck down the ice where Sean Bunting hustled to the puck and then cut to the net and beat Jack Watson with a backhand to pull the Rivermen even.
88 seconds later the Express took their second lead of the night as Massimo Rizzo from the top of the right circle snapping home his first of the night to put the Express into a temporary 2-1 lead.
Ryan Helliwell's point shot 1:11 later eluded Watson to pull Langley even at two on the powerplay.
Earlier in the period Ethan O'Rourke just missed a tap in on an Express powerplay. He didn't miss his second tap in opportunity converting a Will Margel pass for the third Express lead of the night.
Langley's answer to that goal came just less than four minutes later with Tanner Versus burying a rebound of a Ryley Wallack shot to tie the game at 3.
The Express counter punch to that goal came just 26 seconds later with Steven Bellini jumping into the rush and taking a Will Margel pass and snapping a quick shot past the glove of Jonathan Mor to give the Express a 4-3 lead heading to the third period. Will Margel had three assists in game 4 and 2 goals and 5 assists in the series.
Insurance came for the Express midway through the third as Rizzo burst out on a two on one break and decided to keep the puck and beat Jonathan Mor on the stick side to open a 5-3 Express lead. Rizzo had four goals and three assist in this series.
A two goal deficit wasn't going to deter Langley's hopes of keeping the series alive. The Express meanwhile dug in to do the little things right to preserve the lead. Josh Wildauer made two good plays on a penalty kill by getting in the way of Rivermen shots.
Then unfortunately for Wildauer a third shot block attempt of a Ryan Helliwell test deflected off Wildauer's stick from the high slot and it eluded Jack Watson to cut the Express lead to 5-4 with 7:22 to play.
That would be as close as the Rivermen would come. Jack Watson shut the door the rest of the way to finish with 27 saves to post his fourth win of the series.
The Express advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since their championship season in 2014. It's the third all time sweep of a series for the Express. They swept the Langley Hornets in the first round in 2006. Then in 2014 they swept the Vernon Vipers in the Fred Page Cup Final.
Now the Express will get some rest before they will open the second round against either the Chilliwack Chiefs or Surrey Eagles. That series is tied at two games apiece.
Danny Pearson's overtime winner gave the Express a 5-4 come from behind win over the Langley Rivermen opening up a 3-0 Express lead in the Mainland division semi final. Click here for boxscore
The dramatic finish capped off a gutsy come back effort that saw the Express tie the game three times in the third period alone to force overtime.
Langley looking for a change in fortunes went with Bredeon Fleming in goal for his first start of the series. The Express meanwhile got Connor Gregga back after he missed the first two games.
Gregga paid immediate dividends with his return with a toe drag to change the angle of his shot that found the back of the net to open the scoring at 8:45.
Brendan Budy was pointless in the first two games of the series. He put an end to that shortly after Gregga's goal by taking a Jonathan Stein drop pass and ripping a rocket over the glove of Jack Watson to pull Langley even.
Game 3 had some similarities from game two with the teams being very patient which didn't result in a lot of shots on goal or scoring chances for either side early on. After 20 minutes the shots were just 6 apiece.
Matthew Hubbarde gave Langley their first lead of the series with a shot from the left wing where he used Wyatt Head as a screen and snapped it past Jack Watson on the short side.
Early in the third period just after an Express powerplay expired, Josh Wildauer swatted a loose puck in front of the net home to pull the Express even at two.
That goal set the stage for a wild back and forth third period.
1:07 later Hubbarde potted his second of the night burying the rebound of a Brian Scoville point shot for a 3-2 Langley lead.
Wldauer pulled the Express even for a second time in the third period. This time his backhand had barely enough steam to slide between the post and Fleming's stick and cross the goal line to tie the game at 3.
Langley's response came on the powerplay 34 seconds later after winning the face-off to start the powerplay and Ryan Helliwell fired a seeing eye shot to the net that gave Langley a 4-3 lead.
Now with their third lead of the period the Rivermen played it very conservatively hoping to hold on long enough to get the win. Dumping the puck deep any chance they could. Even at the expense of passing up chances to expand the lead.
As the third period ticked down the Express kept up the pressure looking for the equalizer. Off a face-off with 26 seconds left Greg Lapointe's quick shot was blockered away by Fleming. Seconds later Lapointe had the puck behind the net and made a great pass to Will Margel in the high slot who used his time wisely to find his spot and beat Fleming low to the glove side with 9.8 seconds left in the third period to tie the game at 4. It was the third goal for the Express in the final frame that pulled them on even terms and sent the game to overtime.
Jack Watson did his part early in overtime turning aside all 3 Langley shots. As the OT progressed the Express started spending more time in the Rivermen zone. Just past the 7 minute mark Massimo Rizzo found Danny Pearson in the slot and he wasted no time bringing this game to an end beating Fleming high over the glove to give the Express the 5-4 win and commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
The Express will be in search of the sweep as the series continues on Wednesday night with game 4 in Langley.
Jack Watson wasn't denied his first BCHL playoff shutout in the final minute tonight as he finished with 26 saves as the Express blanked Langley 3-0 to take a 2-0 series lead in their Mainland division semi final. Click here for boxscore
This game wasn't as chippy as the series opener. The first period saw Langley edge the Express 8-7 in shots. There weren't many notable scoring chances for either side. Each team clanged a shot off the post in the opening period. Brian Scoville's seeing eye point shot hit iron for Langley. Danny Pearson dinged the red paint with a shot off the rush.
Watson was tested more in the second period as the Express had some trouble finding their rhythm. In part due to the Express struggling to find success in the face-off circle. Watson made 12 saves in the middle frame.
He kept Langley at bay until the powerplay got the offence rolling. Greg Lapointe blasted home his first of the series midway through the period to open the scoring assisted by Cooper Connell and Josh Wildauer. This season the Express are 33-3-1 when Josh Wildauer records a point.
The Express scratched their way through the game and by the third had been able to keep the Langley scoring chances at a minimum.
The powerplay continued to pick apart Langley in the third period. Ethan O'Rourke scored his first of the series early in the stanza for a 2-0 Express lead.
Tempers did flare a little in the third in game 2. Not to the extent they did in game 1. Cooper Connell scored the Express third powerplay goal of the night for a 3-0 Express lead with Brian Scoville in the box for cross checking. Game 2 was the fourth time in the last six meetings between the teams that the Express scored at least three powerplay goals in a game.
Jack Watson feared his shutout bid was going to be broken in the final minute of the third period for a second straight game. But a Langley goal was waved off on a high stick.
Game two wasn't an oil painting. But it got the job done for the Express. The series will shift to Langley for game 3 on Tuesday.