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Express Beat Bulldogs, Start Season 7-1

by Eddie Gregory

What’s better than a perfect 5-0 home stand? A 5-0 home stand that improves the overall record to 7-1 on the season. That’s exactly the case for the Express following a 4-2 win over Alberni Valley Sunday afternoon.¬†Click here for boxscore

The 7-1 start is the best 8 game start in Express history.

The Express were catching a Bulldogs team playing their 3rd game in as many nights at the end of a road trip that started Friday in Prince George.

Early on the Bulldogs didn’t show many signs of fatigue. Tommy Bannister had three of the better scoring chances for Alberni Valley in the first period but were turned aside by Clay Stevenson each time. He finished with 7 saves in the first period.

At the other end Cooper Connell got the Express offence rolling taking a great cross ice pass from Nick Carabin and burying a powerplay goal for a 1-0 Express lead. Connell has scored in back to back games and has three goals in his last four games.

Late in the period saw a very odd sequence. An Express player made a diving play to defend a Bulldog rush taking the player down in the process, Initially one of the referees had his arm up to indicate a delayed penalty only to bring his arm down seconds later.

That leads to confusion which ends up in Bulldogs goaltender Luke Pearson heading to the bench for the extra attacker thinking his team is on the verge of getting a powerplay. The play ends up in the corner in the Express end and it’s never blown dead as it appeared at this point there was no delayed penalty in effect. So by this point the Bulldogs had 6 skaters on the ice and Pearson returned to his net. By this point it appeared as though the Express would be getting a powerplay with Alberni Valley having too many men on the ice.

Now both benches are upset thinking at one point they should be getting a powerplay. When the dust settled nothing was called and the teams remained at 5 on 5.

Moments later the Express extended their lead as Ryan Tattle sped into the Bulldogs zone to recover his dump in. He then fishes out the puck to set up Drew Cooper who snaps home his 3rd of the season for a 2-0 Express lead after 1.

The Bulldogs had some jump to open the second period. Mitch Deelstra from behind the Express net found Tim Gould in the slot who cut the lead to 2-1 just 49 seconds into the frame.

Deelstra then took a pass on a odd man rush and narrowly beat Clay Stevenson on a backhand to tie the game at 2 at 7:19.

Joe Borthwick returned after serving a two game suspension for a kneeing major penalty last Sunday vs. Prince George.

He left his mark on the game 6 minutes after Deelstra’s goal by intercepting a stretch pass and cutting back into the Bulldogs zone and snapping his first BCHL goal past the glove of Pearson for a 3-2 Express lead after 40 minutes.

That goal helped turn the momentum which has shifted in the Bulldogs favour during the 2nd period. The line of Logan Kurki, Dante Ballarin and Luke Burke had their best outing collectively of the season. And they didn’t need to leave a mark on the scoresheet. Consistently they provided good minutes more often than not working the puck in the Bulldogs end and forcing them to spend more time defending than on the attack.

Tyler Schleppe provided the insurance four minutes into the third converting a loose puck that squirted out from the boards and snapping a shot over the glove of Luke Pearson for a 4-2 Express lead.

From that point forward Clay Stevenson shut the door to finish with 20 saves to improve his record to 5-0 on the season.

The Express will kick off October at the annual BCHL showcase which is split between Chilliwack and Penticton. Thursday the Express will play the host Chilliwack Chiefs. Then Saturday morning the  Express will face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in Penticton.