The first two wins are in the bag after taking a pair of games this past weekend vs. the Surrey Eagles. 8-3 on the road Friday, and 5-2 on home ice Saturday.
Coming into Friday's game, the Express were still in search of their first win of the season after beginning the year with a 0-3-1 record. They knew the pair of games vs. the Eagles were crucial to remain within striking distance of the rest of the pack in the Mainland division even though the season was only 4 games old.
Besides the obvious of looking to pick up their first win of the season, there were a couple of other demons the Express had to take care of.
The first was getting the lead for the first time all season. The Express came into the game having played 250 minutes of hockey without playing 1 second with the lead. Well, that came to an end early as Simon Denis blasted home his first BCHL goal 2:25 into the game. Once that was out of the way, the Express didn't let up as rookie Garrick Perry scored his first BCHL goal on a wrap around to give the Express a 2-0 lead. The Express thought they had a 3-0 lead when Jacob Verheyden had a great chance in front, the red light came on, but once the play was stopped and the referee consulted with the goal judge it was ruled no goal. But the Express wouldn't have to wait long for their third goal as Denis scored his second goal of the period blasting a shot from the line to give the Express a 3-0 lead.
That would bring an end to Eagle goalie Tommy Tartaglione's night at 17:25 after allowing 3 goals on 14 shots.
Former Express Ilan Cumberbirch would tally the Eagles first goal of the night at 5:14 of the second period. That gave the Eagles life, and they looked to cut the lead down to one, another former Express Adam Hartley had Surrey's best chance to do just that as he had two glorious chances in front, but Express rookie goalie Mike Chan came up with a pair of spectacular glove saves to keep the Express lead at two.
Here is the call of Chan's two saves
The momentum had swung back in the Express' favour and they would capitalize as they would get power play goals from former Eagle John Bokla and Alex Valenti to give the Express a 4 goal cushion heading into the final frame.
Ilan Cumberbirch and Tyler Morley would score early in the 3rd 23 seconds apart as the Eagles attempted a comeback, but Bokla would add his second of the game and another former Eagle Greg Bay and Jacob Verheyden (in spite of what the BCHL site says) would round out the scoring for the Express in the 8-3 win.
The Express were dominant in many aspects of the game.
First off, the power play which was 2/30 on the season coming into the game went 3/8. The Express out shot the Eagles 53-32. The 53 shots was the most the Express had in a game since a 4-4 tie in Williams Lake when they had 57 in January 2006.
Coach Dave Mclellan was looking for a better effort from his club on the forecheck , getting pucks to the net to create chances, and the D playing better coming out of their own end and he got just that.
The Eagles had a tough time with the Express size and strength down low. It resulted into power play opportunities in which the Express capitalized on.
The defence showed signs of playing with more confidence. They were playing with their heads up which at times seems like a simple task, but it made a difference and the Express D was strong all night at putting pucks into the right areas when coming out of their own end.
Bokla's first goal of the game followed by Valenti's first of the year were plays the coach was looking for of the Express getting pucks to the net and bang home greasy goals.
Gerrick Perry finished the night with 4 points. (1G, 3A) Simon Denis and John Bokla each finished with 2 goals. The attack was balanced as 12 different Express players had a point.
3-Garrick Perry - 1G, 3A
2- John Bokla - 2G
1- Simon Denis - 2G
Now with their first win in their back pocket, it was time to get ready for the rematch 24 hours later at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre.
For the second straight night, the Express opened the scoring. It was an example of coach what Mclellan got from his guys the night before and that was getting a puck to the net and grease its way into the net. Anthony Collins had an initial chance from the slot and his shot hit the goal post creating chaos in the Eagle crease and eventually with Tartaglione on his backside, Collins was able to poke home his first Express goal at 11:13. That would be the only goal of the first 20 minutes. The shots were only 7-5 in favour of Burnaby.
The 2nd saw the Eagles carry more of an edge in the play with more of it in Burnaby's end of the ice. Mike Henderson tied things up as he had a few whacks at the puck in front of Express goalie Mike Chan.
The game wouldn't remain tied for long. As with the Express shorthanded, Tommy Tartaglione fired the puck up the ice but had his pass picked off by Tim Holloway and he fired a shot over the glove of the Eagle goaltender to restore the Express lead at 2-1. The goal would be extra special for Tim as his mother Catherine came up from Texas to see her son play.
Before the second was done, the game would be tied again as the Eagle youngsters would level the score as Trevor Hamaguchi blasted a shot from the high slot over the shoulder of Chan. Darnell Dyck and Brett Agnew drew the assists.
The Eagles outshot the Express 16-6 in the 2nd and were outshooting the Express 21-13 after 40 minutes.
So what the first two periods displayed was, the game was much more of a lunch bucket type of game. And both teams were certainly going to be in for a grind in the 3rd.
The deadlock would be broken as the Garrick Perry show would come back for an en core. He took a pass in the Eagles zone, make a spin move and fired a shot between the legs of Tartaglione to give the Express their third lead of the game. Perry struck again with the Express on a 2 man advantage as he banged home a rebound from a Greg Bay point shot to give the Express a 2 goal lead.
Reid Edmondson rounded out the scoring with 5 seconds left with the Express on another power play after the Eagles were called for too many men when trying to pull Tartaglione for an extra attacker.
The final shots were 28-19 for the Eagles.
3 - Darnell Dyck - 2A
2 - John Bokla - 3A
1- Garrick Perry - 2G, 1A
The Express penalty killing certainly has been outstanding lately. They killed all 7 Eagle power plays in the game, and have now killed off 22 of their last 23 shorthanded situations.
Garrick Perry had a 7 point weekend. 3G, 4A.
John Bokla had a 5 point weekend, 2G, 3A
The win moved the Express into 3rd place in the Mainland division with a record of 2-3-1-0 for 5PTS. One point up on the Eagles.
The teams will meet for a 3rd straight game Friday at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. Faceoff 7:30. It begins a 3 game in 3 night weekend for the Express. They will travel to Langley to face the red hot Chiefs on Saturday. The Chiefs are coming off a perfect road weekend with a pair of wins over the Powell River Kings. Then the Chiefs stormed back from a 5-1 deficit entering the 3rd period to down the Cowichan Valley Capitals 7-5. Derek Grant put on a show with 11 points over the 3 games, (5G, 6A). He now leads the BCHL scoring race with 17 PTS (8G, 9A). Chiefs have the BCHL's best record at 5-1 and have won 5 in a row.
The weekend wraps up for the Express back at home Sunday afternoon when the Vernon Vipers make their lone regular season visit to Burnaby. Faceoff at 2:30.