2008 didn't end the way the Express would like. They opened their post Christmas schedule Monday night at home vs. the Langley Chiefs. Burnaby hoped to come out of the break strong and try and get on a roll.
It wouldn't be an easy task however to face a Chiefs team that went into the Christmas break on a roll winning 3 in a row. Langley got a boost with the return of Milos Gordic and Trevor Elias from injury. Derek Grant however was still on the sidelines.
Burnaby was without forwards Thomas Hardy and Dylan Herold who were unable to get back from their Christmas break in time for the game.
The Chiefs got off to a quick start jumping out to a early advantage in shots on goal and eventually opened the scoring on the powerplay. The Express got caught up the ice and that allowed the Chiefs to turn the play around quick and eventually sending Milos Gordic in on a breakaway and he made no mistake beating Richie Virtanen to the glove side.
Langley made it a 2-0 game when Elgin Pierce cut in on goal, his rush to the net was stopped, but Joe Walter followed up on the play to poke the puck home.
Gordic tallied his second of the game early in the second period to open up a 3-0 Chief lead.
Max Grassi got the Express on the board when he took a feed from Jacob Verheyden from behind the Chiefs net, and Grassi slid it under Andrew Walsh. Just moments earlier, Grassi and Verheyden got their signals crossed when trying to convert on a 2 on 1 break.
The Chiers quickly restored their 3 goal lead on a powerplay when Gordic centered it from the corner and found Mac Roy alone in front and he made no mistake beating Virtanen.
With the Chiefs carrying the play and leading by a score of 4-1 at this point, it would be easy for the Express to fold the tent and accept the fact it will just not be their night. But they dug deep and began to mount a comeback.
Max Grassi scored his second of the game from Cam Brodie and Garrick Perry on the powerplay at 15:27. That was followed 1:20 later by a goal by Nathan Westover as he pinched in from the point and Jacob Verheyden put a perfect pass on his stick that the veteran defenceman put home.
At this point the momentum had clearly swung in Burnaby's favour, they were carrying the play much like the Chiefs had earlier in the contest.
Simon Denis had a great chance to pull the Express even with 90 seconds left in the second, Denis was set up in the slot and was eye to eye with Walsh, but Denis wired a shot off the glass.
That missed opportunity would prove to be costly as a minute later Milos Gordic completed his hat-trick by tipping home a Dennis Robertson point shot to give Langley a 5-3 lead. I find it hard to explain, but the Chiefs always manage to find ways to score big goals late in the period vs. the Express.
The Express opened the third period with a powerplay as Mac Roy was called for interference at the 20:00 mark of the 2nd period.
Burnaby pulled back within one again as Denis beat Walsh with a wrist shot from the left point and with 18 minutes left, the Express were right back in the game.
The Express pressed for the equalizer, but then the Express goaltending issues reared its ugly head again. Mac Roy skated into the Burnaby zone, the speed of the Chiefs off the rush backed off the Express D and Roy snapped a shot beating Virtanen high to the glove side to give the Chiefs a 6-4 lead and essentially sealing the win for Langley.
Inconsistent goaltending has been one of many issues that have plagued the Express this season. The big save at key times have been few and far between this season. I'm not sure if the Express would have been able to complete the comeback Monday night, but if they get a stop by Virtanen on the Roy shot, the game may have been a different story. Soft goals also have a very deflating effect on the rest of the bench. Especially when the team is playing hard, carrying the play and working on a comeback.
Colton Beck rounded out the scoring in the final minute scoring into an empty net.
Chiefs 7 Express 4
Milos Gordic finished with a 4 point night. 3 goals, 1 assist. Mac Roy and Colton Beck each had 3 points in the win.
Jacob Verheyden had 3 assists in the loss while Max Grassi scored twice.
Burnaby - 29
Langley - 27
3-Mac Roy 2G, 1A
2-Jacob Verheyden 3A
1-Milos Gordic 3G, 1A
2008 wrapped up for the Express playing host to the Surrey Eagles. The Eagles were coming off a 4-3 OT win over the Powell River Kings Monday night in Richmond.
The Eagles had taken the last 5 meetings between the two teams.
The Eagles were without goaltender Tommy Tartaglione who was out with a minor shoulder injury. Vinny Lessard got the start between the pipes for the Eagles.
The Express again got off to a slow start at least in terms of the shots on goal department, with the Eagles opening up an early 9-2 advantage.
But the Express would be the ones opening the scoring. With Burnaby on the powerplay, The Express worked it up high with Denis from the left point playing it across the line to Mike Leidl, he then sent the puck down low to Jacob Verheyden. He showed great skill by picking the top corner from a sharp angle on the short side of Lessard to open the scoring.
The Express battled back eventually evening the shots at 9. Burnaby took their lead to the dressing room after the first period.
Another pretty goal would give the Express a 2-0 lead. Again Jacob Verheyden was on the business end. But it was Brent Vandenberg providing the skill, he came down the right wing then dropped a cheeky little pass through his legs to find Verheyden who slid home his second of the night.
Just over 2 minutes later, the soft goal bug bit again. Spencer Bennett fired a pass cross ice to Mike Henderson on the right wing, he fired a shot from the boards and Chan got a piece of it with his blocker but it wasn't enough as it slipped through to get the Eagles on the board. At the end of the night, this soft goal would prove to truly be costly for the Express in the standings.
Again to Burnaby's credit, they didn't allow the goal to deflate them for a second straight night. The Express re-stored their two goal advantage as Verheyden was set up in the slot, he fanned on his shot but it came right to Vandenberg who tipped the shot past Lessard. The assist for Verheyden was his third point of the game. And second straight 3 point effort. His 6 points in his last 2 games have doubled his point production for the season.
The Express took their 3-1 lead into the third. When the final frame began, the Express went into lead protect mode. They appeared to be on their way to victory as the clock slowly began to tick towards zero. But the Eagles made things interesting at 17:25 when Brett Corcoran took a feed out from behind the net and he scored the pull the Eagles back within one.
That was followed by a costly holding penalty by Cam Brodie 36 seconds later. The Eagles made the Express pay as Adam Hartley in front of the net found a loose puck and scored on a backhand to tie the game at 3. The goal came at 18:50. So the Express let what was a 3-1 lead, turn into a 3-3 tie in a span of 1:25.
So it was off to overtime. Both teams had a few chances in the first overtime session to end it but couldn't do so. So the teams would go to a second overtime and play 3 on 3.
The Express had 3 great chances to win the game, as Reid Edmondson had 2 chances in front, then he set up Dylan Herold in front but Lessard stepped up large to keep the game going.
That was followed by the deciding moment in the game, Max Grassi and Brent Vandenberg were both called for penalties, the Eagles had possession of the puck for 30 seconds before the Express touched it and the play was stopped. The penalties in the 2nd overtime resulted in an automatic penalty shot. Now i'm not 100% certain on this, but I think the Eagles would have had 2 penalty shots to try and end the game with infractions called to Grassi and Vandenberg.
Andrew Wallace lined up at centre ice with the game on his stick. He made no mistake beating Chan with a deke to the stick side and the Eagles swiped victory from the grasp of the Express.
End of the day, it was another dissapointing result on home ice for Burnaby. The last 8 losses on home ice for the Express all at one point in time have been a one goal game in the third period. Whether it's the Express ahead by a goal or trailing by a goal.
How bad does that goal by Mike Henderson in the 2nd period look now?
It was the second straight meeting between the two teams that the Express had allowed a 3rd period lead to slip away and lose the game. Surrey came back from a 4-3 deficit to defeat the Express 5-4 in regulation on December 13th.
Adam Hartley and Brett Corcoran each had 1 goal and 1 assist in the win. Vinny Lessard stopped 36 of 39 Express shots for the win.
Max Grassi and Brent Vandenberg extended their point streaks to 4 games in a losing effort. Grassi has 4 goals and 5 assists in his streak, while Vandenberg has 4 goals and 4 assists.
Burnaby - 39
Surrey - 33
The Express will open 2009 with a pair of home games this weekend vs. a pair of Island division clubs. Friday the red hot Cowichan Valley Capitals come to town. Followed by a Saturday visit by the struggling, yes struggling Nanaimo Clippers who currently occupy 3rd place in the Island division.