Last weekend the Express had a pair of games. The first of which was the first "BIG" game of the season.
The Express went into Surrey last Friday just one point back of the Surrey Eagles for 3rd place in the Mainland division. The Express had dropped the last 2 meetings in Surrey vs. the Eagles. You add that to a Surrey team that had won 8 of their last 10 and points in 9 of those games, you had an Express team facing a club that is much improved from the first month of the season.
The last 2 head to head matchups had seen the Express really struggle to generate offence against the Eagles. Surrey had done an excellent job of keeping the Express to the outside.
Burnaby needed to find a way to penetrate the inside of the ice on the Eagles.
The Express got a boost when Reid Edmondson returned to the lineup after missing two weeks due to a hip flexor injury. It was diagnosed when it was found Edmondson's alignment was off. He's since had a thin plate inserted under the boot of his skate to bring him back inline.
This game got started off with a bang when Greg Bay dropped the mitts with Andrew Wallace right off the opening faceoff. At the time, you hoped the fight would give the Express a spark on the road. But it was the Eagles who got life who had a strong opening shift of the game in the Burnaby zone. Forcing the Express into numerous turnovers.
The first period saw Burnaby create numerous scoring chances, but weren't able to put the puck past Tommy Tartaglione.
Surrey opened the scoring just shy of the 8 minute mark of the first period when the puck was chipped into the corner in the Express zone and the Eagles just simply out muscled the Express to the puck, it was played back to Mike Krgovich, his shot was stopped, but former Express Spencer Bennett was there to bang home the rebound.
The Surrey lead was two before the period was done when Chris Santiago scored at the side of the Express net. The assists going to Adam Hartley and Steve Ceccanese.
Certainly not the start the Express were looking for in such a key game with such huge implications in the standings.
Mike Henderson added to the Eagle lead with the Eagles on the power play again as he fired a hard wrist shot top corner from the half boards to beat Mike Chan just shy of the 4 minute mark.
The Express needed someone to try and provide some offence to make an effort to get back into the game. Brodie Reid had a few chances but just couldn't find the mark. The encouraging thing for the Express sniper who hasn't scored since September 26th is that he is creating chances.
The Eagles power play struck again before the period was done as Steve Ceccanese wheeled behind the Express defence and took a perfect pass right up the middle and walked in alone and beat Mike Chan to make it a 4-0 Eagle advantage. The third power play goal of the game for the Eagles.
The third period saw the Express trying to salvage something in what was a chippy affair at times. Two more fights in the third to go on top of Bay's fight off the opening faceoff and a tilt between Max Grassi and Brennan Strang in the second period.
End of the night, it was a very disappointing effort by the Express in a big game where the Express needed to make a statement as they tried to keep pace with the Eagles in the Mainland division standings.
Final score, Eagles 4 Express 0. Tommy Tartaglione stopped all 33 shots he faced for his second straight shutout vs. the Express. The Eagle netminder has allowed just one goal in the last 3 meetings with the Express.
The Express penalty killing took another beating as the Eagles went 3/11 with the man advantage. Second straight game the Express had allowed 3 power play goals.
The Eagle win opened up a 3 point lead on the Express for third place in the Mainland division standings.
3-Steve Ceccanese (1G,1A)
2-Spencer Bennett (1G,1A)
1-Tommy Tartaglione (33 saves, shutout)
Saturday didn't get any easier for the Express. They hosted the league leading Powell River Kings. And Surrey was off to face the 3 win Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
By the time the puck was dropped Saturday night, the Express knew they got some help on the out of town scoreboard when the Bulldogs defeated the Eagles 5-4 in overtime in a rare Saturday afternoon affair. But the Eagles did salvage a point out of the game when they scored twice in the final 10 minutes to force overtime. The overtime loss by the Eagles opened up a 4 point lead on the Express for 3rd place in the division.
The Express were looking to build off their last 2 home games when the Express competed hard against Victoria and Penticton. Two of the better teams in the BCHL.
Powell River was 3-0-1 going into the game vs. Burnaby this season.
The Kings entered the game without one of their top play makers as rookie defenceman Matt Bodie was not in the lineup. But the Kings weren't overly concerned. They had more than enough offence to make up for it. Including the league's leading scorer Darcy Oakes, and Kyle Bodie, Clay Harvey, and Eric Vos all in the top 10.
The league's best power play opened the scoring when Clay Harvey dished it across the Express crease and Oakes roofed it over a sprawled out Mike Chan.
Insipite falling behind, it was the Express who were carrying the play. They were physical with the Kings, they were creating chances and out shot the Kings 12-5 after the first period.
Reid Edmondson tied the game 5 minutes into the second as Garrick Perry got the puck to the net and the large centre popped a loose puck home.
Garrick Perry played his best game since returning to the lineup after being levelled by Nanaimo's Tyler Mah in early October. He was physical on the forecheck, was strong on the puck and was creating scoring chances all night long.
As the second period progressed, it was clear the Express were doing a good job of shutting down the explosive Kings. They limited their quality scoring chances. But the problem the Express have had this season vs. the Kings was a lapse in their play to allow the opposition to get them back into the game.
The Express lapse began in the final 5 minutes of the second period. Max Grassi drilled Kings forward Brooks Robinson from behind on a delayed penalty. The initial penalty was going to Grassi, but now you add this undisciplined checking from behind penalty to his original hooking penalty, you have the Express shorthanded for 4 minutes and the Express without their number one centre for the rest of the game.
That costly penalty was followed 2 minutes later by another stupid penalty by Brodie Reid. He and John Bokla teamed up to force a turnover at the Kings blueline allowing Reid to walk in alone on a shorthanded breakaway. Reid couldn't cash as he tried to pick the top corner. After the chance Reid came together with a Kings player in the corner and Reid was called for roughing. There is absolutely no excuse for this stupid penalty.
Reid has to be better aware of his surroundings. He can't be taking penalties 200 feet away from his net with his team already shorthanded.
To no ones surprise, the Kings made the Express pay on the 5 on 3. Eric Vos redirected a pass from Jordan Gallea over the shoulder of Mike Chan to give the Kings a 2-1 lead after 2 periods.
Just a poor display of a lack of discipline by players who both wear A's on their sweaters.
Powell River has enough offensive punch as it is, the Express who are a team that is struggling to create offence, can't afford to give Powell River any help.
The third period saw the Kings go into lead protect mode. The Express chances were few and far between. Powell River got the insurance marker 8 minutes into the third when the puck was turned over at the King line and Kyle Bodie went in on a 2 on 1 with Chad Niddery, goaltender Mike Chan made a spectacular save off Bodie on the initial shot, but Niddery buried the rebound over the Express netminder.
Reid Edmondson cut the lead back down to one with his second of the game with 13 seconds left. That set up one last hope for the Express. Off a faceoff to the right of Carson Chubak, Brodie Reid slid a shot just wide of the post and the game ended with the Kings coming away with a 3-2 win.
It was a disappointing game from an Express perspective due to Burnaby playing a very strong game shutting down the league's highest scoring team. However, it was spoiled by a pair of dumb penalties by veteran players late in the second period that came back to bite the Express.
And for as much as good teams like the Kings find ways to win when they don't play well. The Express who have now lost 4 straight games, and found a way to lose a game they played pretty well in.
The Express penalty killing continues their recent struggles. The Kings went 2/5 on the powerplay on this night. During the current 4 game losing streak, the penalty killing has allowed 10 goals on 30 shorthanded situations.
Powell River 24
3-Reid Edmondson (2G)
2-Carsen Chubak (28 saves)
1-Eric Vos (1G, 2A)
The Express remain 4 points back of the Eagles for 3rd place in the division.
Friday the Express will see a familiar face when they face Kevin Jebson and the Westside Warriors. That game kicks off a 3 game weekend for the Express. Saturday they return home to host Alberni Valley. Then welcome the Langley Chiefs Sunday afternoon to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre.