by Eddie Gregory |
The Express have punched their ticket to the second round of the playoffs with a 5-4 win over the Langley Rivermen to complete a four game sweep of the Mainland division semi final. Click here for boxscore
Game 4 was similar to the previous night with the teams devoting one period to trade goals back and forth. That would come in the second period.
The opening frame saw the Express push the pace early on looking to get the early jump on the Rivermen. They broke through late in the period when Connor Gregga opened the scoring for a second straight night jamming home a loose puck in the goal crease for a 1-0 Express lead.
The second period saw the Express ramp up their effort level looking to expand their lead. Despite a 5-1 advantage in shots to open the period, it was the Rivermen who got a break to pull even. To open an Express powerplay the Rivermen won the face-off and quickly sent the puck down the ice where Sean Bunting hustled to the puck and then cut to the net and beat Jack Watson with a backhand to pull the Rivermen even.
88 seconds later the Express took their second lead of the night as Massimo Rizzo from the top of the right circle snapping home his first of the night to put the Express into a temporary 2-1 lead.
Ryan Helliwell’s point shot 1:11 later eluded Watson to pull Langley even at two on the powerplay.
Earlier in the period Ethan O’Rourke just missed a tap in on an Express powerplay. He didn’t miss his second tap in opportunity converting a Will Margel pass for the third Express lead of the night.
Langley’s answer to that goal came just less than four minutes later with Tanner Versus burying a rebound of a Ryley Wallack shot to tie the game at 3.
The Express counter punch to that goal came just 26 seconds later with Steven Bellini jumping into the rush and taking a Will Margel pass and snapping a quick shot past the glove of Jonathan Mor to give the Express a 4-3 lead heading to the third period. Will Margel had three assists in game 4 and 2 goals and 5 assists in the series.
Insurance came for the Express midway through the third as Rizzo burst out on a two on one break and decided to keep the puck and beat Jonathan Mor on the stick side to open a 5-3 Express lead. Rizzo had four goals and three assist in this series.
A two goal deficit wasn’t going to deter Langley’s hopes of keeping the series alive. The Express meanwhile dug in to do the little things right to preserve the lead. Josh Wildauer made two good plays on a penalty kill by getting in the way of Rivermen shots.
Then unfortunately for Wildauer a third shot block attempt of a Ryan Helliwell test deflected off Wildauer’s stick from the high slot and it eluded Jack Watson to cut the Express lead to 5-4 with 7:22 to play.
That would be as close as the Rivermen would come. Jack Watson shut the door the rest of the way to finish with 27 saves to post his fourth win of the series.
The Express advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since their championship season in 2014. It’s the third all time sweep of a series for the Express. They swept the Langley Hornets in the first round in 2006. Then in 2014 they swept the Vernon Vipers in the Fred Page Cup Final.
Now the Express will get some rest before they will open the second round against either the Chilliwack Chiefs or Surrey Eagles. That series is tied at two games apiece.