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It’s Score for Cancer Night as the Express start a two-game set against the Grizzlies

The final weekend of the regular season is upon us. How on earth did we get here? Feels like just yesterday the 2023-2024 BCHL season was kicking off with a bang, and now it looks to end similarly so.

The opponent for Coquitlam is a familiar foe in the Victoria Grizzlies. Just last Friday these two tangoed out at the Q in Victoria and it came down to a 6-2 final for the home side. The Grizzlies have had hot offensive numbers all through March and it held true then, expect the same ferocity this weekend. This poses a great challenge for the Express who have not had a great outlook offensively as of late. One of two things must happen. The Express offence must come back to life in timely fashion or the defence needs to be absolutely rock solid on the back end.

And if both can happen at once? What a time to start firing on all cylinders.

The other unique opportunity this weekend produces is the ability to see the same opponent in back-to-back days. Next weekend the post season begins and the Express will be off to face either Alberni or Chilliwack in Game 1 and 2 on the road. Therefore practising the same format with the Grizzlies is advantageous. Play the first game, see what went right and wrong, and come back even stronger the next day. Testing your mettle twice in a row against tough competition and being able to keep discipline in check and evolve your game plan accordingly will be the goal this weekend.

Speaking of Alberni and Chilliwack, it all comes down to tonight to see whom will be the Express’ opening round opponent. Alberni are two points back of the Chiefs with both playing their final games of the season tonight. If the Bulldogs win and Chilliwack loses in regulation, Coquitlam play the Chiefs. If anything else happens, Alberni Valley will be the site of Game 1 and 2 next weekend.

For tonight and tomorrow the Express’ results don’t mean anything relative to their own place in the standings. However the Grizzlies still have plenty left on the table. They are one point behind Nanaimo for fourth place and home ice advantage in the opening round. That’s a whole lot of motivation for the Express to battle through. Yet another piece of the playoff atmosphere puzzle that will unfold at the Poirier tonight.

The Express won’t be without their own conviction tonight as it will be the annual Score for Cancer game. Started by former Captain Ryan Tattle, this is a game aimed at raising money and awareness for the battle against cancer. Over $150,000 has been put towards the cause through this initiative with tonight set to be another fantastic showing.

Coquitlam need to get out of the blocks quickly tonight. The Grizzlies will undoubtedly remember the victory last weekend and try to replicate the similar high pressure they applied early on. Don’t allow Victoria time and space at the top of the zone to get set for their offence as the shooters will feast if allowed to get comfortable. Case in point was last weekend with multiple of the goals scored coming from nearly perfect shots that had time to set up.

The defence will need to be shutting down the quick neutral zone turnarounds as well. If Coquitlam are not sure on their breakout the Grizzlies will not hesitate to run and gun. With the additions to the defensive core the Express have an impressive outlook on the back end and have shown what they are capable of. They will need the version of the defence that allowed two or less multiple times throughout February and March.

The defensive core will have to do it without Luke Vardy tonight and tomorrow as he serves a two game suspension for a check to the head from last weekend’s game against the Cowichan Capitals. The defence has been running with the extra player for the last while now as the forwards continue to try and get healthy for the postseason, so we will see who slots in tonight.

Jackson Krill has been on a string of great play as of late. The local boy from Port Moody has points in three of his last four including a two assist game against the Cranbrook Bucks. If his offensive motor keeps turning and he utilises his impressive speed and physicality to enable his teammates then it’s a recipe for a good time for the Express offence. His vision and passing on the powerplay has also been a welcome resurgence.

Still plenty of time to grab tickets for the 7pm PST puck drop at the Poirier tonight. If you can’t make it out then be sure to tune in for the broadcast on FloHockey.


– Ian Wilson