Not too often do you circle the date on the calendar for a pre-season game. But Friday's affair was a little different.
It was a game the Express were looking to measure themselves up against a team that is consistently one of the BCHL's best in the Penticton Vees. The crew from Penticton came away with a 5-3 win over the Express at the Coquitlam Sports Centre.
The game was scoreless through 20 minutes. The Express opened the scoring at 7:45 of the second period when Mitch Fyffe roofed a loose puck set up by Jason Bird.
Penticton countered three minutes later on the powerplay with a great shot from the goal line by Mario Lucia when he roofed it short side on Khaleed Devji.
Travis St. Denis showed great hustle and determination to set up Logan Johnston to give the Vees a 2-1 lead before the period was done.
Dana Tenenbaum pulled the Express even when his point shot changed directions and found the back of the net at 2:07.
Mike Reily broke the deadlock midway through the third period giving the Vees a 3-2 lead.
Then with the Express on a powerplay, Logan Johnston broke in behind the Express defence, Clinton Atkinson layed a pretty good one handed whack on the Vees attacker and he was awarded a controversial penalty shot. Johnston sniped a perfect shot on the free play beating Khaleed Devji post and in from the stick side. As for the whack that led to the penalty shot, was it a penalty? Yes. Did it warrant a penalty shot? I'm not so sure. *(Note to self, It's pre-season.)
Ben Murphy pulled the Express back within one with just over three minutes remaining but that would be as close as they would come. Joey Benik put the game away for the Vees in the final minute with an empty netter.
The Vees outshot the Express 39-21. Khaleed Devji played the full game and turned aside 34 of the 38 shots he faced. The Express number 1 netminder again looked solid and confident despite the losing effort. He limited the number of second chance opportunites he gave the Vees.
The Express went 0 for 3 on the powerplay while the Vees went 1 for 5. One aspect of the Express penalty killing tonight that stood out was their willingness to sacrifice the body on a regular basis and block shots.
This game also had a pretty good physical element with both sides throwing a number of bone crunching checks.
Express alum Kyle Turris made another appearance at the game tonight and signed plenty of autographs for the fans.