Friday the Express opened 2009 hoping to begin the year on a positive note after losing their final 2 games of 2008.
The Express welcomed the red hot Cowichan Valley Capitals to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. Cowichan was coming off a 9-1 month of December. That hot play allowed them to surpass the Nanaimo Clippers for 2nd place in the Island division.
This was the third meeting of the season between the two teams. Cowichan had taken both meetings thus far, 5-3 in Cowichan on December 6th and 6-1 in Burnaby on October 18th.
Burnaby got off to a poor start by taking 4 straight penalties including an extending 5 on 3 for the Caps. Two of the Burnaby penalties were taken by leading scorer Max Grassi. One for interference and the other for slashing. After Grassi's 2nd penalty for slashing, Grassi displayed his frustration by flipping the puck over the glass and into the crowd after the whistle. Grassi was fortunate on a pair of levels, first of all no one got hit by the puck and secondly, referee Chris Hahn didn't see it and not give Max another penalty. This would be the start of a rough night for Grassi.
The Express did manage to dig themselves out of their early hole by killing off all 4 Cap powerplays.
Burnaby opened the scoring late in the first period when Luke Challier poked home his 3rd goal of the season when Cowichan goalie Chris Rawlings tried to pin the puck at the side of the net, but Challier kept whacking away and eventually slipped it home.
The Express took the lead into the dressing room. But Cowichan had a quick response early in the 2nd period. Just over a minute in to the period, Chris Zaires took a feed from the slot and put the puck past a sprawled out Mike Chan to even the score.
It didn't take long for the Caps to strike again as just 25 seconds later Ryan Pajimola beat Mike Chan upstairs with a quick shot to give Cowichan a 2-1 lead.
Burnaby got a scare 5 minutes into the second period when Simon Denis wired the puck off the glass for an icing call. Seconds after he let go of the puck, Denis was slew footed by Cowichan's Nick Anderson. Denis fell hard to the ice and needed help to get to the dressing room. The injury looked worse than it turned out to be. Denis suffered brusing on both of his knees. He should be back in a few weeks.
The lead would be extended to 3 late in the second period as Alex Gellert won a faceoff to the left of Chan, Gellert then went to the net and tipped home Spencer Fraipont's point shot to give Cowichan a 3-1 lead.
Max Grassi's rough night would culminate moments later. He was given a 5 minute major for cross checking just 45 seconds after Gellert's tally. Grassi was also given a game misconduct. On Grassi's way to the room, he put a towel on his stick and waved it in the air in mock surrender. Grassi earned himself a gross misconduct and a automatic 3 game suspension. So the Express will be without their top scorer until Saturday's game in Powell River.
Brent Vandenberg cut the Caps lead down to one by scoring on a shorthanded breakaway beating Chris Rawlings through the legs. But Cowichan quickly restored their two goal lead when Alex Gellert dangled through the Express defence then slid home his second of the game.
The Express had a good opportunity to attempt to cut the lead down to one again when Zach Currie was called for elbowing 4 minutes into the third. But Greg Bay wiped out that powerplay opportunity when he crosschecked a Caps player after the whistle had been blown. Just another poor display of frustration on this night.
Jared Chernoff cut the lead down to one by scoring at the 15:13 mark of the third period. But it was too little too late and the Caps held on for the 4-3 win. The loss for Burnaby extended their losing streak to 3 games.
Cowichan Valley 32
Cowichan Valley 1/8
3-Chris Rawlings 24 saves (W) en route to being named the BCHL player of the week.
2-Luke Challier (1G)
1-Alex Gellert (2G, 1A)
The Express couldn't dwell on the loss for long. The next night the Nanaimo Clippers came to town. Burnaby had done well this season vs. Nanaimo. Winning 2 of the 3 meetings between the two teams this season.
Nanaimo came in sitting in unfamiliar territory in third place in the Island division standings. 10 points back of the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The Express got off to a good start less than 3 minutes into the game. Jared Chernoff picked off goaltender Johnathon Jobin's clearing attempt behind the net and walked in front and just beat Jobin back in time to put it in the net to open the scoring for Burnaby.
In spite of the Express taking the early lead, it was Nanaimo dominating the shots on goal department. They had a 8-1 shot advantage by the 18 minute mark of the first period. This was in spite of the fact that the Clips had given Burnaby all 3 power plays in the first period. The Express even had troubles getting pucks to the net with the additional help of the power plays.
The Express added to their lead in the opening minute of the second period taking advantage of another Clipper turnover. Ronnie Smith had his pass picked off by Dylan Herold who snapped a shot top corner on Jobin to give Burnaby a 2-0 lead.
Nanaimo got on the board minutes later on a powerplay. Mike Boivin's point shot was stopped by Chan but Eric Filiou followed up and poked home a loose puck.
The game settled down at that point until Jared Chernoff gave the Express an insurance marker on the powerplay with 4:20 left in the third period.
Nananimo pressed to get back into the game. They cut the lead down to one with 13 seconds left scoring a powerplay goal by Carson Schell with Brent Vandenberg off for slashing. But it was too little too late for Nanaimo. The Express held on for a 3-2 win.
The Express win gave them the season series for the first time in franchise history vs. Nanaimo winning 3 of the 4 meetins.
Mike Chan stopped 39 of 41 shots for his first win in 10 starts. Chan's last win came on October 25th vs. Alberni Valley.
3-Micheal Boivin (1A)
2-Dylan Herold (2G)
1-Mike Chan (39 saves, W)
The Express will be on the road for their next 4 outings. Wednesday they're in Langley. Then Burnaby will head to Powell River for a pair of games Friday and Saturday. Then they will wrap up their road swing Sunday afternoon in Cowichan Valley.