The series will begin at the old stomping grounds of the Langley Hornets due to the BC High School Basketball championships taking over the the Langley Events Centre. If a game 7 of Langley's first round series with Surrey was to be played, it was slated for the George.
The Express dispatched the scrappy Prince George Spruce Kings with a 2-1 win in Coquitlam Wednesday. The Rivermen did the same with a 6-1 win over the pesky Surrey Eagles at the South Surrey Arena.
For the Express this series has the makings to be just as close as their first round match up with Prince George.
The biggest difference from the first round to the second round for the Express will see them go up against a bigger and more physical opponent.
Prince George presented a challenge of shutting down their smaller more skilled forwards like Chad Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Justin Rai.
It will be a different story in this series that will see the Express try and shut down bigger and more physical first line of Jacob Reichert, Matt Ustaski and Mitch McLain. For the Express they will catch a break in game 1 as McLain the Rivermen captain will serve the second game of a two game suspension following his five minute major goaltender interference penalty assessed in game 5 of their series with Surrey.
During the regular season these teams quickly developed a dislike for one another. The Rivermen built their team in the off-season with a distinct influence on size. When the Express and Rivermen met early in the regular season Langley tried to use their size to establish a physical presence. It didn't take long for the Express to meet the challenge and respond.
That set the tone for the entire season series between the two teams. And it made for some entertaing and emotional games to watch between the two teams. I don't expect things to be any different in this series. It will probably only be ramped up a level with a berth in the third round of the BCHL playoffs on the line.
These teams equally split 8 head to head meetings with each other with both clubs posting identical 4-3-0-1 records for 9 points.
The Express did win 3 of the last 4 regular season meetings between the two teams. Highlighted by back to back wins for the Express 6-5 in Langley and a 3-2 win at home in a back to back upon the resumption of play following the Christmas break. Langley took the final regular season meeting vs. the Express 4-1 at the Langley Events Centre February 18th.
Both teams used a very balanced attack in their six game first round victories. The Express had 10 different goal scorers. Langley bettered that with 13 different players scoring goals. Langley did score 10 more goals than the Express in their first round series. They were led by Matt Ustaski who scored 6 goals and 9 points.
The Express led the BCHL during the regular season with 226 goals scored. They didn't match that pace in the first round vs. Prince George. But during the course of the regular season they found ways to win tight one goal games vs. some of the top clubs in the BCHL. And that experience certainly paid off in their first round series vs. the Spruce Kings. And their ability to minimize the damage inflicted by Prince George's top players was a big reason why the Express were successful. They have a slightly more challenging team to try and lock down in this series.
The Rivermen finished the regular season with the best record in the BCHL with 37 wins and 82 points in 58 games. That mark was helped by Langley posting a BCHL high 10 overtime wins this season. If you go by regulation wins, the Rivermen only posted 3 more victories than the Express with 27 compared to 24 for the Express.
And that success for both clubs in one goal games helps set up what should be a very close series.
Both teams had solid goaltending in the first round. Express net minder Gordie Defiel was probably the series MVP vs. Prince George turning aside 201 of the 213 shots sent his way for a .944 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against average.
Brock Crossthwaite had a 2.59 GAA and .918 save percentage in their win over the Surrey Eagles.
Like their series with Prince George, this series has the makings to be another battle that will feature fairly even clubs and we will likely see a lot of one goal games. The physical aspect will likely ramp it up another level. In the end this one has the makings to go 6 or maybe even 7 games.
Let's get in started.