The Burnaby Express came home for their first game of the season at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre with a 2-0 record. It is a good start to the season with road wins over Cowichan Valley and Surrey.
Powell River provided Burnaby's competition last night. The Kings are a much different team than the one a season ago that went all the way to the Fred Page Cup final. Powell River lost a tonne of offensive weapons that led the league in goals scored. They had 4 players in the top 6 in league scoring.
The lack of explosive weaponry was reflected in Powell River's two games leading up to Saturday's affair in Burnaby. Powell River had just scored one goal in its previous two games.
The Kings got off to a good start in the game with Carter Shinkaruk scoring off a rebound from the end boards after Cody Rinaldi's shot went over top of the Burnaby net.
The Kings lead didn't last long as the Express had a reply on the powerplay as Brad Reid from the left boards made a beautiful cross ice pass to Jon Puskar who blasted home the pass on a one timer beating Josh Watson.
3 minutes after the Puskar goal at the 15 minute mark of the opening period, the Express struck again. This time shorthanded, Rich Manley and Brad Reid forced a turnover at the Burnaby blueline setting up a 2 on 1 break. Reid dished the puck to Manley, who quickly returned it to Reid who made no mistake going to the backhand to beat Watson to give the Express a 2-1 lead.
Now, if it wasn't for Express goaltender Harrison May, the Express could have at least gone to the dressing room even. May stopped 17 of 18 Powell River shots in the first period.
The Kings did pull even 4 minutes into the second period. Andrew Pettit's shot from the left wing was stopped by May, but he gave up a juicy rebound which was put home by Jordan Grant.
Midway through the 2nd period the Kings had restored their lead. Brenden Forbe's tipped Darcy Huisman's point shot past May to give the Kings a 3-2 lead.
At this point the Kings were starting to carry the play. The shots were significantly in favor of Powell River.
The Express did pull even again in this back and forth game before the period was done. Rich Manley set up Jon Puskar for his 2nd goal of the game. Manley passed it out from behind the Kings net and Puskar tapped it home. The goal came with just 1:37 remaining in the 2nd period.
Despite, the heavy shot advantage in favour of Powell River after 2 periods, 35-20, the Express went to the dressing room all even. Much to the credit of Harrison May keeping his team in the game, and strong penalty killing.
The game settled down in the third period. The penalty killing on both sides really took over with the game on the line. The Express killed off two early Kings powerplays in the third period. Powell River shut down Burnaby's powerplay in the final frame.
As the game was developing, there was one concern that was starting to bubble to the surface. It started Friday night in Surrey when Harrison May lost the puck in his feet and it came in front of a gaping net and May bailed himself out with a spectacular stick save off Jason Grecica.
The issue was showing signs of popping up again Saturday night. May coughed the puck up a few times when playing out of his crease. Or he had trouble finding it in his feet. Watching this unfold, the question arose about whether or not it would come back to hurt the Express on this night?
In the dying seconds of the third period Brad Reid was called for high sticking at 19:51. The Express penalty killing which had been so good all night and 24 hours earlier in Surrey needed their biggest kill of the young season.
The powerplay carried over into overtime giving the Kings a 4 on 3 advantage in the sudden death period. Burnaby met the challenge and passed it with flying colors killing off the Reid penalty and keeping the Express alive. The most notable performance of that penalty kiilling effort was three blocked shots by Burnaby.
Once the penalty expired, perhaps Burnaby would get a boost and press for the game winner. It didn't happen. Harrison May's troubles handling the puck finally hurt his team as he lost the puck behind his net, Chad Niddery stole the puck off May and centered it to Matt Garbowsky put it into the wide open net to give the Kings a 4-3 win.
The loss was the first of the season for Burnaby. Powell River improved their record to 3-1.
When people reflect on Saturday's game vs. Powell River, the goat horns will be placed on Harrison May for coughing up the puck which led to the game winning goal. May also needs to be praised for a strong game to keep his team in the game and allowing the Express to get a point out of it. May stopped 42 of 46 shots.
The Express penalty killing had a second straight strong performance killing off all 6 Kings powerplays. You add to that, the 7 penalties Burnaby killed off Friday night in Surrey, the Express have now killed off 13 consecutive opposition powerplays in the last 2 games.
Powell River 46
Powell River 0/6
3. Jordan Grant - 1 goal for Powell River.
2. Rich Manley - 2 assists in a losing cause.
1. Jon Puskar - Scored two goals and is tied with Rich Manley for the team lead in scoring with 6 points in the first 3 games.
Wednesday @ Merritt 7:00. Broadcast begins at 6:45.