Saturday, January 7, 2017


It was a way too long of a time coming. 24 games in fact, but the Express snapped their 23 game winless streak with a 5-2 win over Surrey Friday night.

During the streak the Express posted a 0-21-1-1 record. The road between victories was long, laborious and painful at times. And that's what made Friday's victory that much more satisfying when you consider what the team had endured. Prior to Friday the Express last tasted victory October 21st 5-4 vs. Wenatchee.

Alex Ambrosio - Photo courtesy of Damon James
The team was ravaged with injuries cutting into the depth and experience of the team. There were nights with up to 10 regulars out of the lineup and 5 or 6 affiliate players in the lineup as Barry Wolff tried to dress as full of a lineup as possible. Those challenges led to some long nights with some lopsided losses handed to the Express.

But now that streak is a thing of the past.

The seeds for this victory may have been planted when the Express returned from their Christmas break a week ago vs. Surrey. Some of the injured players started to slowly filter their way back in the lineup with the returns of Domenic Masellis, Mitch Newsome, Christian Bosa and Alex Ambrosio. Friday the Express got another key body back tonight with Cam Bertsch dressing for his first game since the home opener in early October.

Lawson Fenton made 36 saves  - Photo courtesy of Damon James

Bertsch's return had an immediate impact. His first shift of the game saw him block a shot and block a pass. That all set the tone for a strong night for the 20 year old forward. Bertsch didn't hit the scoresheet, but his finger prints were all over the game. He made some key defensive plays, used his speed to help get in on the forechek. It was pretty easy to see what the Express were missing in Bertsch.

Will Lawrence opened the scoring for the Express. He was in perfect position to steal a Surrey D to D pass and tuck the puck past Michael Botiz for Lawerence's 4th goal of the season.

Another Surrey turnover along the boards in the Surrey zone led to the second Express goal. Mitch Newsome then set up Alex Ambrosio who snapped a shot up over the glove of Botiz for 2-0 Express lead after the first period.

 Photo courtesy of Damon James
Surrey ramped up their game in the first half of the second period. Darius Davidson got the Eagles on the board in the opening minute beating Lawson Fenton with a wrist shot up over his glove.

The Eagles had the edge in play for the first 10 minutes of the period but Lawson Fenton shut the door to keep the Express in the lead. Fenton would finish with 36 saves for his third win of the season.

Midway through the second period the Express restored their two goal lead. On the power play Jake Brien unloaded a slap shot past Botiz for a 3-1 Express lead on Brien's 2nd goal of the season.

The line of Mitch Newsome, Alex Ambrosio and Cal Babych teamed up late in the second period to give the Express some insurance going into the third period. Newsome picked the puck off the boards and set up Ambrosio in the slot, his shot was blocked but the puck bounced right to Newsome who scored for a second straight game and a 4-1 lead.

The third period saw the Express focus on their play on the defensive side of the game to bring home the victory. Surrey made it a 4-2 game when Ty Westgard potted home a loose puck with 11 minutes to go. From there Surrey never really threatened to complete the come back.

Cal Babych sealed the win for the Express picking up his third point of the night on a empty net goal with just over two minutes remaining in the third period. Babych finished with one goal and two assists. His line along with Ambrosio and Newsome each picking up a goal and an assist help that unit combine for seven points with three goals and four assists.

The Express will hit the road this weekend for a pair of games against Island division foes the Powell River Kings and Cowichan Valley Capitals. 

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