Thursday, November 30, 2017


Jason Fortier made his Express coaching debut
Photo courtesy of Garrett James
It's been a busy 72 hours for the Express organization that started with making a coaching change announcing Jason Fortier took over as the Express bench boss for Barry Wolff on Monday.

The new Express had coach had little time to get acclimated with his new team before coaching his first game.

Fortier met with the players Monday, ran a practice Tuesday and was behind the Express bench Wednesday night.

He commented on wanting the Express to use their speed and try to be more of a puck possession team. Early on some of those tweeks were showing in the Express game. And it led to some odd man rushes.

One of those chances opened the scoring for the Express as Sam Kozlowski came down the right wing an snapped a shot past Chad Kromar to open the scoring.

E. Linell scored a pair of power play goals - Photo courtesy of Garrett James
That goal was the spring board to give the Express some confidence to try to create more chances, but Chad Kromar held the Express to just one goal in the period.

Rivermen captain Brendan Body pulled the visitors even in the final minute of the first period. He crept in from the left side and took a back door pass and snapped a shot past Brock Hamm.

Nik Ponak gave Langley their only lead of the night just 37 seconds into the second period.

Jason Fortier has done plenty of work in his short time as the Express Head Coach to implement his systems. That includes the power play. Some quick passes and puck movement were notable from the Express with the man advantage Wednesday.

It was a goal off the rush however that even things up for the Express on the power play. Alex Ambrosio raced into the Langley zone on the right wing. He caught a break as a Rivermen defender lost his footing allowing the Express captain to gain entry into the zone. He then put a backhand pass onto the tape of Eric Linell who tipped it home to tie the game at two.

This was the 5th meeting of the season between the Express and Rivermen. In most of the games between the two teams there has been an underlying animosity in the games. It was no different on Wednesday.

In the first period Doug Scott had a notable stare down with Sean Gulka. They met again in the final minutes of the second period. Scott was going to be penalized for a hit on Trevor St. Jean. Gulka didn't take too kindly to the hit and the two dropped the gloves. A pretty even fight saw each guy get in their fair share of shots. Earlier this season Scott had a fight pretty much in the same spot of the ice with Nik Ponak.

Just 13 seconds into the third period Eric Linell was shoved into the corner boards and had a pretty hard collision on the fresh ice. Fortunately for the Express forward he got up right away. But Carter Stephenson was called for boarding.

On the ensuing power play Linell made Stephenson pay scoring his second of the night from another set up by captain Alex Ambrosio at 2:05.

Midway through the third period Langley even things up again. A shot from the right point by Carter Stephenson was tipped by Ethan Leyh and the shot had just enough to trickle through Brock Hamm to tie the game at 3.

Four of the five games between these teams have been tied at some point in the final 6 minutes of the third period.

Wednesday's game was the second of those games to go to overtime. Josh Wildauer used his speed to draw a penalty coming out of the corner in the first overtime.

On the 4 on 3 advantage the Express moved the puck around looking for their opportunity to win it. But bad ice conditions late in the game made it a challenge for the Express to settle a bouncing puck.

Photo courtesy of Garrett James
The Express couldn't convert on their opportunity. They finished 2 for 6 on the power play. Langley was 1 for 2.

In 3 on 3 double overtime Wildauer was stopped powering in from the left wing. Langley goaltender Chad Kromar finished with 23 saves on 26 shots.

At the other end Brock Hamm made overtime saves on a Eric Butte breakaway. Then he had to reach back with all he could to keep a puck out that was rolling towards the goal line. Hamm finished with 31 saves.

With the tie the Express are still winless in their last 14 games, but more efforts like Wednesday and that streak won't last much longer.

The Express are back in action Friday in Chilliwack. 

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