Saturday, February 28, 2015
OLD PLAYOFF RIVALRY RENEWED
The Chilliwack Chiefs set up a first round matchup with the Express with a 5-2 win over the Express in the final regular season home game for the Express. There wasn't much for either team to play for entering the game. The Express had an outside chance to move up to third place with wins in the final two regular season games vs. Chilliwack and a pair of Spruce Kings regulation losses. But that didn't happen. Chilliwack had first place sewn up in the Mainland division. The Express had a chance to help get Brett Supinski his 50th goal and 100th point as he entered the game with 47 goals and 97 points. Knowing these teams would likely meet in the first round at puck drop neither team really wanted to tip their hand much for what we may see come game 1 on Tuesday. The Express got off to a fast start by opening up an early 8-1 advantage in shots in the first 8 minutes but Aidan Pelino kept the Express at bay. Then Chilliwack began to find their game and instantly it seemed the flood gates opened. Jordan Kawaguchi on a wraparound scored his 28th of the season to get Chilliwack going. The goal pulled him into a tie for the team lead in goals with Craig Puffer. 90 seconds later it was Brandon Potomak extending the lead as his backhand from the right wing hit Braden Krogfoss went up in the air and had just enough to cross the goal line for a 2-0 lead. Potomak was one of the more dangerous Chiefs all night using his speed. 1:52 after that it was 3-0 as Jake Hand scored the prettiest goal of the night as he was able to dance around an Express defenceman and score. Hand wasn't done there as he added his second of the period 3:30 later on the power play as his wrist shot from the left circle found the back of the net. The shot may have hit some of the traffic in front of the Express net. When all was said and done it was a 4-0 Chiefs first period lead in a span of 6:52. For as much it was a tough first period for Braden Krogfoss, he deserves recognition for shutting the door in the final two periods to give his team a chance to try and claw back into the game. He's had a very strong finish to the season allowing Head Coach Barry Wolff to split his goaltending duties pretty equally in the final month or so to make sure stater Chris Tai is fresh after a pretty heavy workload after first coming to the Express from the AJHL. The second period the Express did their best looking to try and claw into the deficit. It was clear in the first few shifts there was a concerted effort to help set up Brett Supinski to help him pull closer to the milestones he's trying to achieve. His best chance came in the second as he cut to the net and just slid the puck past the far post. The top line was unable to hit the scoresheet Friday night. Taylor Green got the Express on the board as Daniell Lange and Colton Kerfoot teamed up to set up Green who scored his 4th of the season with a wrist shot over the glove of Pelino. The line of Michael Merulla, Owen Stout and Brendan Gulka has been providing a nice touch of secondary scoring to the Express attack recently. The latter two teamed up to set up Daniell Lange three minutes into the third period to cut the deficit to two. The assists extended point streaks to five games for both Stout and Gulka with two goals and four assist each in that time. With plenty of time left on the clock I at least had the thought that there was plenty of time left for the big guns to do their thing and take over the game to help mount an Express comeback. It wasn't meant to be as Pelino shut the door the rest of the way to finish with 29 saves to post the win. Jake Larson was credited with an empty net goal after the final horn had sounded but it was just one final detail in the Chiefs victory. The regular season comes to an end Saturday night in Chilliwack with one final head to head meeting before the teams do it with bigger stakes at hand in the first round. Get ready folks the Express and Chiefs are going to get very familiar with one another with possibly up to 9 consecutive meetings on the horizon. This is the first playoff meeting between the teams since 2007 when the Express and Chiefs met in the playoffs in the first six seasons of the Express existence with the Express based in Coquitlam and Burnaby. And the Chiefs residing in Chilliwack and Langley. The Chiefs won the first four meetings from 02-05 with the latter three being decided in 7 games. The Express took the last two playoff match ups between the two teams winning in 5 games in 2006 and in the 7th game in overtime the next year. Those historical facts don't mean a thing to the players or coaches especially when the puck drops Tuesday. It only gives me something to talk about.