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by Eddie Gregory

 

Express goaltender Kolby Matthews and his counterpart in the Langley Rivermen crease Braedon Fleming went toe to toe in a epic duel that saw the Rivermen netminder prevail in a 2-0 win over the Express. Click here for boxscore

Both teams entered Saturday’s contest coming off opening night wins the night before.

It didn’t take long to realize that this game was going to be a battle of the goaltenders.

Kolby Matthews made his first start of the season for the Express after being acquired just prior to training camp from the Calgary Canucks. He saw 10 shots sent his way in the first period turning them all away. His best save of the first period was a backhand chance off the rush from Alec Capstick.

At the other end the Express warmed up Braedon Fleming with shots, but a number of them were right in his crest that didn’t result in rebound opportunities.

The best chances for the Express in the first period saw Danny Pearson take a pass from behind the Langley net from Christian Sanda, but the chance from the slot was shot down from Fleming.

Minutes later off the rush Alex DiPaolo set up Regan Kimens who snapped off the pass right away, but Fleming was on the mark coming to his left to make his best save of the first period.

After outshooting the Rivermen 12-10 in the first period, the Express started to pull away in the second.

They opened up an 10-2 advantage in shots by the midway mark of the second period. But Fleming was still unflappable. He denied Dallas Farrell on a redirection in the slot, a chance in tight for Chase Danol and Cole Edgerton at the edge of the Langley crease.

Kolby Matthews was just as strong at the other end with some of his best saves of the period coming in the latter half of the middle frame. He stopped Tanner Verlius in the slot. That was followed with a save off Ethan Leyh off the rush.

At the end of the second period with game still scoreless both goaltenders passed each other as they went to their respective dressing rooms and gave each other a tap on the blocker knowing how well their counterpart had been playing up until that point.

Langley started the third period with a powerplay after Dallas Farrell came to the defence of Alex DiPaolo who was levelled with a hit at the end of the second period.

The deadlock was finally broken moments after Farrell’s penalty came to an end.

William Stromp cut in front of the Express net and in the process was able to get Matthews to open his pads and slid home the game’s first goal at 2:27 of the third period.

Now with a one goal lead to work with Fleming remained locked in the Rivermen crease.

Dallas Farrell couldn’t bury a chance off the rush snapping a pass that found his stick from Regan Kimens.

Even two third period powerplay wasn’t the tonic the Express needed to get their attack to convert. They finished 0 for 3 on the night. The penalty killing kept Langley in check on both of their opportunities.

Trying to make one final attempt to get the equalizer with Matthews on the bench, the Express got their signals crossed at the blueline on a offside forcing them to dump the puck in the Langley zone and Carter Stephenson fired it into the empty net to put Langley up 2-0 with 30 seconds left.

Braedon Fleming finished with 32 saves to post the shutout. Kolby Matthews was very strong in his own right with 29 saves on 30 Langley shots sent his way.

The loss for the Express wasn’t from a lack of effort. They simply ran into a goaltender that was ever so slightly better than their goaltender. After 40 minutes when the game was scoreless, you knew that whoever was going to lose the game was going to be disappointed knowing how well their goaltender had played up until that point.

The Express will be in Prince George for a pair of games next week.