Saturday, February 29, 2020


It was a heated opener of the Express and Rivermen Mainland division semi final. At the end of the night the BCHL's top team prevailed by a 5-1 score to take a 1-0 series lead. Click here for boxscore

Seemingly more often than not when the Express and Rivermen meet the tempers flare up. But Friday went to another level.

The Express went with a new look with Ethan O'Rourke centering Massimo Rizzo and Ryan Tattle. That line gave the Express a good mix of speed and sandpaper. For the most part it was Tattle on that line bringing the sandpaper and he was trying to hit everything he possibly could.

The energy translated to a quick start for the Express. Late in the first period that line had a notable shift of pushing the pace in the Rivermen zone. Massimo Rizzo brought the sandpaper by laying out Brendan Budy with a big hit along the boards. Tattle meanwhile fed the puck back to Joey Berkopec who opened the scoring with a wrist shot over the glove of Jonathan Mor. That capped off an opening period that saw the Express outshoot Langley 15-4.

The waters began to simmer between the teams in the second period. Massimo Rizzo was whistled for a double minor for high sticking. With the second penalty to Rizzo in effect, a Tanner Versluis tripping penalty took Langley off the poweprlay. That would become a consistent theme on this night.

One theme that carried over from the regular season into game 1 is the Express making Langley pay for undisciplined penalties. With Colten Kovich in the box for roughing after the whistle, Rizzo found the scoresheet in the manner he's known for. He ripped a wrist shot past a screened Mor for a 2-0 Express lead.

Langley took themselves off the powerplay for a second time in the middle frame on a Sean Bunting cross checking penalty. On the ensuing Express powerplay Will Margel tapped home a Danny Pearson pass at the edge of the crease for a 3-0 Express lead after two periods.

Things really got wild as the third period went on in game 1. There were too many scrums and roughing situations to all list in this space.

Christian MacDougall made his return to the lineup in game 1. He was right in the middle of a lot of things on this night. His agitating style had Langley players barking at him all night. And the gritty Express forward was eating it all up. Ryan Tattle was also in the mix of a lot of things on this night in addition to using his speed playing alongside Rizzo and O'Rourke.

There was only one fight on this night that saw Tyler Schleppe and Ryan Helliwell drop the gloves with just over 8 minutes to play.

Nick Carabin burying the rebound of his own wraparound just as an Express powerplay came to an end made it 4-0 Express. His goal snapped a 43 game goalless drought for Carabin. His last goal came all the way back on October 23rd vs. Langley.

Massimo Rizzo buried his second powerplay goal and picked up his 4th point of the night midway through the period to open a 5-0 Express lead. Rizzo's two powerplay goals surpasses his regular season total of one with the extra man this season. The Express finished 3 for 9 on the powerplay.

As the third period ticked down while the tempers kept on being riled up, Jack Watson was hoping his playoff debut would result in a shutout. Unfortunately he was denied it when Sean Bunting scored with 55 seconds to play. But that would be the lone blemish on Watson who opened the playoffs with 23 saves.

These teams will have a day off between games 1 and 2 to cool down before the series resumes Sunday night in Coquitlam. 

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