by Eddie Gregory |
Top spot in the BCHL standings was on the line between the Express and the Penticton Vees. When it was said and done, the Express were victorious on the ice and in the alley coming away with a 7-2 result. Click here for boxscore.
The win kept the Express perfect at home 13-0. And it was their 14th straight win on home ice dating back to the game 4 victory last season vs. Prince George in the playoffs. The 14 straight home ice wins matches the 14 in a row which is a team record set back in the 06-07 season.
Clay Stevenson won his 9th straight decision with 25 saves. He had to weather a early Penticton powerplay and made a nice stop on a deflection with his right leg early on to keep the game scoreless.
Christian MacDougall was in the box for the penalty after what appeared to be a good honest hit on the forecheck in the Penticton zone. That hit helped get MacDougall going to who was definitely involved all night.
Greg Lapointe opened the scoring by finding a loose puck in front of the net and burying the rebound of a Drew Cooper point shot. It was the 23rd time in 27 games this season that the Express have scored first.
Then before the second period got started the sparks began to fly. As the teams awaited for the start of the period the teams were lining up at centre ice. Connor Gregga was bumped by Conner Hutchison and the two had a few words. More on that later.
Lapointe struck again early in the second period from the side of the Vees net bouncing in a puck off Penticton goaltender Yaniv Perets. Lapointe leads the Express with 15 goals on the season.
Just shy of the 4 minute mark Penticton defenceman Conner Hutchison was whistled for a double minor for high sticking. And before the first penalty expired the Vees were fishing the puck out of their net after former Penticton captain Massimo Rizzo’s shot was stopped but Connor Gregga on the other side buried the rebound for a 3-0 Express lead. Wednesday’s game also marked the first meeting between the teams since their marquee off season trade that saw Rizzo come to Coquitlam and Alex DiPaolo head to the South Okanagan.
Midway through the second period Noah De La Durantaye was tabbed for a double minor high sticking penalty. This time around the league’s top penalty killing in the Express stood tall to preserve the Express 3 goal lead. That was the highlight of the 18th perfect night on the penalty kill for the Express. The Vees finished 0 for 4 on the powerplay.
David Silye got the visitors on the board before the second period was done jamming in a loose puck at the side of the Express net for a 3-1 score through two periods.
Entering the third period the game featuring the top two teams in the BCHL had lived up to the hype with not much separating either team. This is when the sparks would really start to fly.
Connor Gregga was hit along the boards in the Penticton zone that resulted in a check to the head penalty for Colton Kalezic and a two man advantage for the Express. During the stoppage Hutchison and Gregga came together again and this time Gregga, the gritty Markham, Ontario native, dropped the gloves after having enough of the chirping. The Express forward ended up on top of the pile when it was said and done.
Then with Gregga in the room he would hear Brad Ong scoring on the two man advantage tipping home a set up from Will Margel for a 4-1 Express lead.
18 seconds later Ethan O’Rourke scored on the 5 on 4 burying the rebound of a Greg Lapointe shot to open a 5-1 Express lead. That goal chased Yanniv Perets after 5 goals on 23 shots.
Off the ensuing face-off at centre ice more fireworks saw Cooper Connell drop the gloves with Danny Weight and the Express forward left Weight down on the ice in the centre ice circle all the while getting the Express bench fired up as Connell was sent off.
Brad Ong capped off three Express goals in a 1:58 span tipping home his second of the night past Carl Stankowski and a 6-1 Express lead.
The chippiness didn’t settle down in the final minutes of the third period. Noah De La Durantaye was on the receiving end of a hit by Jack Barnes that saw the Vees forward ejected with a 5 minute major for checking from behind. Thankfully for the Express De La Durantaye returned to the bench.
An Ethan O’Rourke penalty interrupted the 5 minute major powerplay for the Express. Just as O’Rourke’s penalty expired Tyler Ho scored off the rush for a shorthanded goal to cut the lead to 6-2.
Christian MacDougall never let up his gritty style after his first period penalty. He got rewarded late in the game sliding home his first BCHL goal with just over a minute to play in the third period to put the Express up 7-2.
The win improves the Express to 22-5 on the season with 44 points and moving one point up on Penticton for top spot in the BCHL overall standings.
The 8 game homestand for the Express continues Friday night for the first of two visits this weekend from the Surrey Eagles.