by Eddie Gregory |
|Graphic by Jacob Lazare.|
For the first time in 19 seasons the Express can call themselves regular season Mainland division champions. It was clinched with a gritty 4-3 win over their long time rival Chilliwack Chiefs. Click here for boxscore
|Massimo Rizzo – Photo courtesy of Damon James.|
The win snapped the Express season high three game losing streak. And it was one of their more impressive wins of the 39 they have picked up this season.
The injury situation didn’t change as there were still 6 regulars out of the lineup. But the ones that were in the line up made sure the effort level was high. And a number of guys even elevated their level to give their team a much needed boost.
Right from the get go the Express were ready to bring their best. They were playing hard and fast.
Just past the four minute mark Josh Wildauer snapped a shot past the glove of Mathieu Caron to open the scoring with his third goal in his last two games.
For the most part there weren’t many mistakes in the Express game. One gaffe however ended up in their net. Clay Stevenson came out of his net to play the puck. He ended up putting a perfect pass on the tape of Brett Rylance who buried it into the empty net to tie the game at one.
The error didn’t dissuade the Express on this night who showed plenty of poise and quickly shook it off.
|Connor Gregga – Photo courtesy of Damon James.|
With four AP’s in the lineup tonight they stepped up to help fill the void and leave their mark on the game for the Express.
Christian Lowe took a pass out of the corner from Tyler Schleppe and snapped home his first BCHL goal for a 2-1 Express lead after one period.
The visitors picked up their game to open the second period. Tommy Lyons beat Clay Stevenson on a backhand just past the five minute mark for a 2-2 tie.
Again the Express found offence from an unlikely source for their third lead of the night. Christian Lowe won a draw just as a powerplay expired and Brad Ong cut into the slot and snapped home his 9th of the season. For Ong it was his first goal in 17 games.
Most games between the Express and Chiefs this season have been tight contests. Why would Friday night be any different?
|Nick Carabin – Photo courtesy of Damon James.|
With 30 seconds left in the period Hudson Thornton scored off the rush to even things at 3 through two periods.
Entering the third with a division crown at stake the Express showed the character that got them to this point. They were ready to have their best period of the night. Having so many guys out of the lineup wasn’t going to be a factor.
AP defenceman Matthew Campbell did his part to help out early in the third with 4 good plays on one shift.
The deadlock was broken with just over 5 minutes to play with a good read by Nick Carabin to keep the puck in the Chiefs zone then fire it at the night where it was tipped by Ong for his second of the night putting the Express in the lead for good.
They locked the game down in the final five minutes to preserve the win and clinch their first regular season division championship. Clay Stevenson finished with 20 saves for his 28th win of the season.
Discipline was another key element to the Express success giving Chilliwack only two powerplays on the night. And none in the 2nd or 3rd periods.
The Express have the rest of the weekend off and will host Langley next Friday.