by Jacob Lazare
Welcome back Express fans! 13 days without hockey was tough, but back to back games here this weekend should help alleviate the hockey withdrawals. The unofficial 2nd half (although it is more like a third) begins tonight with your Express in Chilliwack to take on the Chiefs. The last time these teams met was on the 14th of the month, and the Express made a statement with a 10-5 victory. Despite taking 2 of the 3 matchups with the division rival Chiefs so far this season, the Express are still mired in an 0-21-1 streak at Chilliwack. How can the Express make it 3 straight wins against the Chiefs and end the winless streak at Prospera? Here are my keys to the game:
Key #1 – Start Fast to Eliminate the Crowd
The Chiefs, like the Express, have had 2 weeks off for the holiday break. You know that on a Saturday night the Chiefs faithful will show up and be loud. Early first periods have been roller coaster rides for the Express. Some games, it isa first or second shot goal against to concede an early lead. Others, it is a blazing start that opens up to a 2 or 3 nothing lead. A fast, physical start where you limit Chilliwack’s chances will help keep the crowd out of the game. The last Express trip to Prospera back in October saw the Chiefs hold off a late Express comeback to win 5-4. The Chiefs led 2-0 only 7 minutes into that game, and the crowd loved it. The Chiefs fed off that energy until late in the third period. If the Express want to emerge with 2 points tonight, a better start is paramount.
Key #2 – Special Teams Supremacy
Despite a 2nd place position in the league standings and a pair of players already at the 20 goal mark, the Chilliwack Chiefs powerplay has been average over the course of the season. They currently rank 12th in the league at 18.3%. In comparison, the Express powerplay that struggled during the team’s cold stretch in November has been hot as of late. In December, the Express powerplay is 14/40, good for 35%. That includes a 4/10 showing in the 10-5 win over Chilliwack just over 2 weeks ago. On the season, the Express powerplay has eclipsed 20%, sitting at 20.1% which ranks them 5th in the BCHL. Replicating a 40% night against a strong Chilliwack penalty kill won’t be easy, nor should it be expected. But the Express’ powerplay must find a way to punish the Chiefs for any undisciplined penalties. I don’t see the Express emerging victorious tonight without striking at least once on the man advantage.
Key #3 – What Streak?
Us media types have to bring up the numbers. It’s part of our job, but for the guys on the ice, this is just one of 58 games. With only a handful of veteran Express players having been a part of this streak which dates back a few years, the goal here tonight from the group as a whole is just the 2 points. Ending the streak would just be a technicality along the way.
Tonight’s game is Hockey TV’s Free BCHL Game of the Week! You can watch it with a free Hockey TV account by clicking here.