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Express Defeat Vees to Clinch #1 Seed

by Eddie Gregory |

For the first time in Express history they will finish with the top record in the BCHL after a 3-2 win over the Penticton Vees at the South Okanagan Events Centre. https://bchl.ca/stats/game-summary/9633

The Express did it by securing the win while Penticton was making a hard charge to try and catch the Express. The Vees had won 10 in a row and 14 of their last 15 coming into the game.

The first meeting of the season between the teams saw some fireworks that were sparked in part by the 7-2 decision in favour of the Express. Friday’s game was more reserved with much more at stake.

The first period was dead even between the two teams. The shots finished 13 apiece. And the teams traded goals. Adam Trotman at the edge of the goal crease converted a Josh Wildauer pass for a powerplay goal to open the scoring for the Express. That was followed 1:41 later by Lukas Sillinger tying the game for Penticton finishing off a give and go with David Silye and snapping his 20th of the season past the glove of Clay Stevenson.

Pentiction began to pepper the Express net in the second period. But the backbone of the Express Clay Stevenson was there to calm the waters. He was beaten once in the second period on a one timer by Jay O’Brien to give the Vees their lone lead of the night.

From then on Stevenson shut the door with 22 saves in the middle frame. His best sequence coming with 4 saves in about a 30 second span.

The powerplay pulled the Express on even terms with Cooper Connell at the side of the net burying his 17th of the season past Yaniv Perets.

Entering the third tied at two, the Express on the road simplified and locked the game down. Hoping to find the goal they need for the regulation win necessary for finishing first overall.

That goal came three minutes into the period thanks to a great pass by Noah De La Durantaye to spring Greg Lapointe on a breakaway and he slid home a backhand past Perets for his team leading 28th of the season and a 3-2 Express lead. Lapointe finished with 1 goal and 2 assists.

Then the Express locked the game down and slowed the pace down to slowly allow the clock to begin to tick down.

They did push for some insurance. Most notably Cooper Connell was down right robbed on a two on one by a marvellous glove save by Yanniv Perets. Then Lapointe was stoned by Perets on a another breakaway.

At the other end Clay Stevenson was less busy. But his best save of the final frame came on a re-direction off the rush by Stephen Holtz and Stevenson got his pad down on that one.

The final minute came with the Vees making one final push, but the hard work the Express had put in all season to get to this point rose to the occasion as the Express held on for the win to clinch the Ron Boileau trophy for the first time in the 19 season history of the Express.

Friday’s game was Clay Stevenson’s last game in an Express uniform. And he went out in style by getting the win to clinch the best record in the league. He also surpassed Kevin Jebson by becoming the first goalie in Express history to win 30 games in a season.

Stevenson’s season will truly go down not only as the best in Express history by a goaltender. He had an all time best season for a BCHL netminder. His 1.77 GAA and .936 save percentage are the second lowest marks in league history.

Graphic by Jacob Lazare

He did not suffer a loss in regulation time after October 18th in Langley. And he was undefeated on home ice.

The Express will travel to Trail Saturday night to face Kent Johnson and the Smoke Eaters.