After some tough games for Cole Huggins recently, he bounced back with avengence Sunday with a performance that reminded BCHL followers why he was considered one of the top goaltenders in the league earlier this season.
Huggins turned aside 60 of 62 shots sent his way, but it wasn't enough as the Eagles blanked the Express 2-0.
Michael Santaguida posted his 2nd consecutive shutout for the Eagles turning aside all 32 Express shots sent his way.
For both of these two teams, their starts post Christmas have gone in completely opposite directions.
The Express have dropped all three games. Losing a pair to Langley. Then to Surrey Sunday. For the Eagles, their weekend began with back to back wins over Mainland division leading Chilliwack followed by the shutout of the Express.
It was an evenly played first period between the two teams.
The opening minutes of the game for the Express was notable with their physical start to the game making sure no check was left unfinished. The Express physicality was having an impact on the Eagles as a number of players were retaliating with slashes and chops following the Express hits.
One of the hits proved costly for the Surrey Eagles as Malcom McKinney's hit on recently acquired Troy Paterson knocked the 20 year old veteran out of the game.
Cole Huggins looked confident with a number of the saves he made on the afternoon in the first period. He was aggressive and challenging shooters in his crease. His best save came off Brett Mulcahy on a two on nothing shorthanded breakaway.
Santaguida showed his aggressive style in the first period as well with a number of stops.
Surrey outshot the Express 16-13 in the first period.
After a fairly even first period, the game drastically tilted in the Eagles favour in the second.
They ramped their game up and began to dominate the puck possession and play in the Express end of the ice. That would result in a significant increase in shots sent Huggins way.
The Eagles opened the scoring on a lucky break. Craig Wyzomirski's shot from the left point hit the stick of Express rookie Luca Leone and over the shoulder of Huggins.
Surrey kept up the relentless pressure on the Express in the second period. And their size and strength advantage started to take over as well.
And that was a prominent factor on the second goal for Surrey.
Nicolas Pierog went to the boards along with two Express players and came up with the puck and muscled it into the slot and got a backhand away and at the side of the net Mason Blacklock was able to tip it past Cole Huggins.
Surrey's second period dominance was reflected in a 27-4 advantage in shots.
Were it not for Huggins, the score could have been worse for the Express. He was as stellar and confident as i've seen him all season.
Huggins turned aside all 19 shots from the Eagles in the third period.
The Express picked up their shot total in the final frame, but couldn't find a way to beat Santaguida. Their best chance to score came when John Siemer nearly scored a goal of the year as he beat an Eagle defender then with one hand on his stick nearly slid it past Santaguida. Instead the shot went just past the post.
It was a tough loss for the Express to take considering how it spoiled such a fantastic performance from Huggins.
In the final two periods, the Eagles outshot the Express 46-19.
After the three straight wins for the Eagles which include two vs. Chilliwack, they now trail the Chiefs by one point for first place in the Mainland division.
The Express remain one point up on Langley in the division. But now the Rivermen have two games in hand.
It's official, the Coquitlam Express and Langley Rivermen are in a fight for the final playoff spot in the Mainland division after the Rivermen swept a home and home with the Express Friday and Saturday and have 3 straight wins in head to head meetings between the two clubs since the middle of December.
Langley is now nipping on the heels of the Express sitting one point back of the current occupiers of 4th place with Langley having a game in hand.
The Express have 22 games left in the season and Langley has 23. There's two head to head meetings left between the two teams. And from here until the end of the regular season, these two clubs are likely going to be jockeying for positioning.
The last three head to head meetings between the Express and the Rivermen have been pretty forgettable for the Express.
Saturday night the Rivermen dropped the Express 7-4. In the last three games between the two clubs the Rivermen have outscored the Express 21-8.
Like the night before, the Rivermen put the Express in an early hole. They quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the thirteen minute mark on goals by Austin Azurdia, Ben Butcher and Mario Puskarich on the powerplay.
The three goals saw Cole Huggins' night come to an end after just 9 shots. He was pulled for a second consecutive outing at the Langley Events Centre.
Like the night before, the Express didn't let the early hole effect their morale and they battled to try and get back into the game.
Zach Pryzbek got the Express on the board as he knocked a puck out of the air and in the net on the powerplay.
Old faithful Phil Zielonka kept up his scoring ways striking on the powerplay just over 4 minutes later to pull the Express within one and the Express nearly dug themselves out of a hole they put themselves in. That would turn out to be a theme on this night.
Last minute goals always seems to be such critical goals. And that proved to be the case again on Saturday.
Mario Puskarich broke out on an odd man rush for Langley and he found the late man coming late and Logan Smith snapped home the feed past Daniel Urbani with just 29 seconds remaining in the period to restore the two goal Langley lead going to the second period.
The Rivermen opened the period with a double minor powerplay after Travis Stephens was assessed a double minor for butt ending at the 20:00 mark of the first period.
The Express managed to kill off the penalties. Thanks in part to Langley's passive style and desire to set up for the perfect play.
John Siemer pulled the Express back within a goal as he took a pass from Phil Zielonka and used his great hands in tight and slide the puck through the legs of James Barr to pull the Express back within one at 12:10.
The penalty killers for the Express came up big again late in the second period killing off a 93 second two man advantage. From a Langley perspective, they might look at that one again as being a little too passive looking for the perfect play.
Entering the third period despite all the adversity for the Express, the game was still up for grabs.
Just over two minutes into the period, Austin Azurdia added his second of the game as he scored on a wrap around.
Then a shade under two minutes later the Rivermen struck again as Jacob Reichert cut into the slot and slid the puck through the legs of Urbani to make it a 6-3 lead.
John Siemer responded quickly for the prettiest goal of the night as he led a 3 on 2 rush and decided to keep the puck and dance around the defenceman and power the puck to the net and slide it past James Barr.
Derek Sutliffe capped off the scoring on an unfortunate break for the Express as Brandon Morley ran into the referee which resulted in a tunover and Sutliffe wired a shot over the glove of Urbani to make it a 7-4 game.
It was a busy night for the shot keepers in the game as the teams each had 44 shots on this night.
The Express will play their third game in as many days Sunday afternoon as they will host the Surrey Eagles for just the second time this season. And first since late September.
The BCHL returned from the Christmas break Friday night.
The Express begin their post Christmas schedule with a home and home with the Langley Rivermen.
In the opener, the Rivermen dropped the Express 6-1 in Coquitlam.
The win pulled Langley within three points of the Express for fourth place in the Mainland division and the final playoff spot. The Rivermen also have a game in hand on the Express.
The opening minutes started well for the Express. They peppered Langley goaltender James Barr with shots opening an early 8-2 advantage. They were physical on the forecheck and banging Rivermen bodies at every turn.
Malcom McKinney who played his first game in well over two months along with captain Mitch Nardi were notable for the number of hits they laid out.
But it was the visitors opening the scoring on the powerplay. Victor Dombrovskiy made a great cross ice pass to Ben Butcher who blasted it home on a one-timer past Cole Huggins.
And just after the Rivermen celebrations from the goal were dying down, they were celebrating again. Cole Huggins made two good saves on a scramble and finally on the third chance Derek Sutliffe found a loose puck and put it in the gaping net. The goal came just 19 seconds after the goal by Butcher.
In the blink of an eye the game had quickly turned in the visitors favour. The Express didn't let the quick slip up effect their game. They continued to press the Langley net now looking to get back into the game.
Phil Zielonka continued to do what he does best and that is score for the Express. He snapped home a powerplay goal from the slot at 15:13 to cut the Rivermen lead to 2-1. He now is riding a 19 game point streak with 18 goals and 11 assists for 29 points in that time after not registering a point in his first game with the Express. Just call him old faithful.
Both teams didn't show any signs of turkey legs with each team registering 15 shots in the first period.
Langley extended their lead on the powerplay in the second period. James Robinson took a feed on the left wing and cut in and slid a shot just inside the post and Huggins left skate to give Langley a 3-1 lead.
Another pair of quick goals added to the Rivermen lead early in the third period. Mario Puskarich and Mitch McLain scored 1:33 apart.
Former Express Evan Campbell rounded out the scoring wiring a rocket of a wrist shot over the shoulder of Huggins off the crossbar and in late in the third period.
Mario Puskarich, Evan Campbell and James Robinson each had multiple point nights. Not quite as dominant as the last time these two teams met before Christmas. Puskarich had 1 goal and 3 assists, and Robinson and Campbell each had a goal and an assist.
The Express did muster 47 shots on the night and James Barr was steady all night long in the Rivermen crease.
Special teams favoured Langley as they went 2 for 4 on the powerplay while the Express went 1 for 6.
The home and home between the two teams resumes Saturday night in Langley.
Prior to the game Saturday vs. Powell River, I spoke with a number of Express players and got their thoughts on what they're most looking forward to during the Christmas break. Plus if there's anyone listening, who still hasn't got any gift ideas for some of the players, they have some good hints for you.
During the second intermission of Saturday's game vs. Powell River I had a chance to speak with Express President Darcy Rota. We discussed the first half of the season. And looked forward to the final 24 games of the season.
Phil Zielonka scored his second overtime winner of the season just 30 seconds into the extra session to give the Express a 3-2 win over the Powell River Kings Saturday night. The win assured the Express would head into the holiday break on a winning note.
The Express got an early advantage in the special teams battle and it helped pace them to an early 2-0 lead. Coquitlam killed off an early elbowing penalty to John Siemer just 50 seconds into the game.
Then the Express powerplay went to work. Zach Pryzbek opened the scoring on the first Express powerplay of the game. He was persistent whacking away at the puck and was able to jam it under the pad of Braeden Ostepchuk.
Two minutes later on their second powerplay of the game they struck again. Off the rush John Siemer carried the puck into the Kings zone dished it into the middle to Phil Zielonka who quickly set up Brandon Morley who snapped the pass home for a 2-0 Express lead.
The Kings got one goal back before the period was done. Bradley Parker flipped the puck to the net and Matthew Dupont was able to direct the pass by Cole Huggins at 15:50.
The Express took their 2-1 lead to the third period. They had done a good job up to that point limiting the quality scoring chances against.
Powell River began to pick up the pace in the third period. A holding penalty in the opening minute of the third period to Zach Pryzbek gave the Kings their third powerplay of the game.
On the advantage, Matt Scarth was able to find a loose puck lying in the crease and swipe it home to complete the Powell River comeback from their two goal first period deficit.
The Kings carried an edge in play throughout the third period. But the Express held strong.
The game went to overtime. Coach Calvano sent out his big guns John Siemer and Phil Zielonka to begin the extra frame. It didn't take long for them to hook up and end the game for the Express. Siemer battled hard along the end boards to steal the puck from a Kings defenceman and flip it into the crease and Zielonka was there on the doorstep to quickly snap it past Ostepchuk to give the Express a 3-2 win just 30 seconds into overtime.
Coquitlam heads into the break with a 16-15-1-0 record through 32 games. When they return, they will have 24 games remaining in their season. They will resume their schedule with a home and home with the Langley Rivermen starting December 28th in Coquitlam.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish the followers of the blog all the best and hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for taking the time over the course of the season to check out the blog to date.
I have a few things I would like to post over the course of the next day or so. But like the players, I will probably take a holiday break from the blogging during the holiday season.
The Express couldn't stop the line of Mario Puskarich, James Robinson and Evan Campbell as they had a night to remember as part of a 8-3 win over the Express Friday.
The game started well for the Express. John Siemer opened the scoring after a point shot by Latrell Charleson bounced off the leg of Brandon Morley right to Siemer who swiped the loose puck past James Barr.
From there, Langley's top line took over the hockey game. Mario Puskarich scored his first of the game just over two minutes later as he found a loose puck in the crease and poked it off an Express defender and past Cole Huggins.
James Robinson got his scoring night started late in the first period and he deftly re-directed a shot from the right boards by Evan Campbell through the legs of Cole Huggins.
The line of of Robinson, Puskarich and Campbell were all in on the first two goals of the game for Langley.
Rivermen goaltender James Barr made a number of solid saves on the Express in the first period.
Robinson picked up his second of the game midway through the period. He came down the right wing and snapped a shot which hit the stick of an Express defenceman which handcuffed Cole Huggins and trickled into the net. The goal meant the end of the night early for Cole Huggins for a second straight outing. He was relieved in favour of Daniel Urbani after allowing three goals on twenty one shots.
Robinson's second of the game came shortly after a good chance for Phil Zielonka which he couldn't capitalize on.
It wasn't long before Langley struck again. Derek Sutliffe cut to the Express goal and bumped Daniel Urbani and he wasn't in position to make the save on the rebound shot that Matt Ustaski buried into the open net to give the Rivermen a 4-1 lead.
Phil Zielonka was dangerous all night for the Express. Shooting the puck at every opportunity. He was rewarded finding a loose puck at the side of the Rivermen net and banging home his 16th goal of the season at 12:54.
Seconds after the goal we saw the first fight of the night. And it turned out to be a very spirited affair as captain Mitch Nardi and Mitch McClain dropped the gloves and each got their fair share of big shots in.
The goal and the fight appeared to give the Express some life. They carried the majority of the play to end the second period. They even had a powerplay to end the period but the Express still went into the third period trailing by a pair.
The Express entered the third period looking to build off their strong finish to the second period and try and get back into the game. But it wound up getting worse. A pinch by an Express defenceman wound up proving costly as it led to a two on one and James Robinson kept the puck and wired it over the glove of Daniel Urbani just 32 seconds into the period for his third goal of the night.
Mitchell Fyffe got that goal back for the Express just 17 seconds later.
Then Mario Puskarich finished off his own hat-trick scoring a pair of goals in the third. Then Trevor Cope finished off the scoring for the Rivermen and he fired a wrist shot that had enough to squeak through Urbani.
The Express have one game left before the Christmas break Saturday night when they host the Powell River Kings.
Week 12 of the Jon Calvano show recaps the three games last week in Chilliwack and the double dip in Prince George. And we discuss the big news that forward Alexander Kerfoot is officially done for the season after suffering a shoulder injury November 24th in West Kelowna. We also discuss how to keep the players focused with two games this week before the Christmas break vs. Langley and Powell River.
The Prince George Spruce Kings took a pair of games this weekend vs. the Express in the first of two double dips in Prince George this season.
Saturday night the Spruce Kings out lasted the Express 6-4. Then they took the second game on Sunday afternoon 4-1.
The teams got the two game set started with a bang. They traded 6 goals in the first period alone with the teams coming out of the opening 20 minutes tied at three. Prince George took the lead on three separate occasions in the first period only to see the Express pull even each time.
Will Cook, Brandon Morley and Marc Biega scored the three goals for the Express.
Shayne Morrisey gave Prince George the lead for good in the second period scoring a pair of goals. Chad Staley inscreased the Prince George lead to three in the third period. Phil Zielonka scored with 8:15 remaining in the third period to round out the scoring.
The game was the first between the two teams since they hooked up on a trade last month that saw the Express acquire Brad Ryan and send Jace Hennig and Mark Begert to Prince George.
All three players involved in the trade hit the score sheet with Mark Begert opening the scoring in the game with his first goal of the season. Ryan and Hennig each had an assist.
Cole Huggins turned aside 36 of the 42 shots sent his way. Kirk Thompson made 32 saves on 36 Express shots to earn the win.
Sunday afternoon Prince George started fast scoring just 25 seconds into the game on a goal by Sean Landry.
Prince George struck quickly in the second period to expand their lead. Former Express Cam Lawson scored at 8:25. Then just 1:29 later the lead was at three after a goal by Tyson Witala.
That was the end of the night for goaltender Cole Huggins who was relieved after allowing 3 goals on 20 shots.
Just over two minutes later Phil Zielonka scored his 15th goal in his 17th game for what would turn out to be the only goal of the afternoon for the Express.
Shayne Morrisey capped the scoring in the game at 8:25 of the third period.
Kirk Thompson was very busy in the Prince George crease turning aside 39 of the 40 Express shots sent his way.
The two wins this weekend by the Spruce Kings opened up a 5 point lead for Prince George on the Express for third place in the Mainland division.
The Express have two more games before the Christmas break Friday night in Langley. Then they will host the Powell River Kings on Saturday night at the Poirier Sports Centre.
The Express scored three times in the second period, and Cole Huggins made 44 saves as the Express picked up their first win this season vs. the Chiefs 3-2 Wednesday night at Prospera Centre.
It was the best effort this season vs. the Mainland division leaders. And Cole Huggins was the backbone with his best performance of the season vs. the Chiefs.
Huggins needed to be strong early as Chilliwack jumped on the Express quickly in the first period. The 20 year old veteran came up with a number of big stops in the opening minutes of the game.
Chilliwack finally broke through when Trevor Hills cut into the slot, then was forced behind the Express goal and threw it back in front of the net where Spencer Graboski found the loose puck and poked it past Huggins.
That would turn out to be the only goal the Chiefs would get past Huggins in the opening period as he turned aside 15 of the 16 shots sent his way.
The Express only got 5 shots on goal in the opening frame.
The visitors were better in the second period. They began to turn the game in their favour.
Brandon Morley got the Express on the board 5 minutes into the period while shorthanded as he took advantage of a fanned shot by a Chiefs defenceman, flipped the puck past him then on the breakaway showed great hands going to the backhand and slid the puck through the legs of the BCHL's reigning player of the week Mitch Gillam.
That goal certainly gave the Express a huge boost which would carry them for the rest of the period.
The Express took their lead first lead just under 6 minutes later. Great forechecking pressure by Travis Stephens led to a turn over and AP Phenom Matthew Barzal showed his slick hands cutting to the net then sliding a pass over to Mitch Nardi who roofed his second goal in as many games.
3 minutes later the Express struck again. Callum Hofford's shot from the left point powered it's way past Gillam for just the second goal of the season for the first year defenceman. The goal was helped by a screen provided by both Justin Georgeson and Zach Pryzbek going hard to the net.
It was the best period of the season for the Express vs. the Chiefs this season. They fired 19 shots on goal in the middle frame.
Chilliwack got some bad news late in the second period as Josh Hansen got hurt in the final two minutes of the period and did not return to the game.
Entering the third it was about playing smart and bringing home the victory for the Express.
Adam Rockwood rang a shot off the cross bar with about 8 minutes to go which would have sealed the game for good for the Express.
Chilliwack pressed hard looking to get back into the game. They did get back within one with two minutes left. With Mitchell Fyffe serving a hooking penalty, and Gillam pulled for the extra attacker, Shay Laurent's point shot went wide of the net, but the rebound off the end boards bounced in front of the net and Trevor Hills buried the rebound over Huggins to cut the Express lead to one.
The Chiefs had one last push in the final two minutes, but couldn't find an equalizer and the Express skated off victorious.
20 more shots were sent Huggins way in the third period, but it was just about putting the final touches on a strong night in net for the Express goaltender.
Phil Zielonka did not dress for the Express as he missed the game with the flu.
Now the Express get ready for a pair of games this weekend in Prince George.
Week 11 of the Jon Calvano show recaps the two games last weekend vs. Surrey and Trail. We look ahead to a crucial portion of the schedule with 4 straight division road games against Chilliwack, Prince George and Langley. And with the midway mark of the season upon us on Wednesday, we get a mid-season report card on the Express season to date.
The Coquitlam Express picked up their third win in their last four games with a 7-1 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters. The win also gave the sweep of the two game season series for the Express.
The offence started quickly for the Express. They got a double minor powerplay less than a minute into the game and they would capitalize.
Adam Rockwood worked the puck into the corner to Justin Georgeson who snapped a pass through the crease and found a pinching Michael Maciag who tipped home his second goal of the season past Lyndon Stanwood.
That gave the Express the taste for blood in the water against the team with by far the most goals allowed in the BCHL.
Phil Zielonka got on the board just under four minutes later. Mark Biega's shot from the point missed the net but the puck bounced off the end boards into the goal crease where Zielonka poked it home for his 13th goal in his 15 game with the Express. 35 seconds later the Express struck again. And it was a veteran forward bumping a lengthy slump. Justin Georgeson snapped a wrist shot that was tipped by a Trail defender and got past Stanwood. For Georgeson it was his first goal in his last 12 games.
The three goal lead less than six minutes into the game on six shots chased Lyndon Stanwood at least for the moment. Coquitlam kept on looking for more on Cody Boeckman.
Brandon Morley was high sticked in the neutral zone which was going to result in a Trail penalty. With the delayed penalty in effect, Travis Stephens picked up the puck in the neutral zone, carried the puck into the Trail zone and snapped a wrist shot low to the stick side for his first Express goal at 17:39.
A four goal lead for Daniel Urbani was a very comfortable cushion for the Express rookie netminder to protect.
Another Express veteran snapped a significant slump of his own in the second period. Mitch Nardi scored his first goal in eight games for just his fourth goal of the season to give the Express a 5-0 lead.
Both Nardi and Georgeson had a helping hand in helping the other break their droughts with assists on the goals.
Former Express Brayden Pears snapped Daniel Urbani's bid for his second consecutive shutout of the Trail Smoke Eaters with less than seven minutes remaining in the third period as his powerplay goal beat Urbani with a wrist shot high to the glove side.
Twenty five seconds later the lead was back to five for the Express as Stephens scored his second goal of the game wiring a wrist shot over the glove of Stanwood who returned to the crease at the start of the second period.
John Siemer rounded out the scoring for the Express with 1:41 to go as he poked a loose puck that was in the crease in the net after Phil Zielonka showed great determination to get the puck into the slot area to create the scoring chance.
Up next comes a critical portion of the schedule for the Express that will see them play their next four games on the road vs. Mainland division opponents starting Wednesday in Chilliwack. Then the Express hit the road for a pair of games next weekend in Prince George. The fourth game on the road vs. a divisional opponent will be Friday December 14th in Langley.