Express split opening weekend games

Coquitlam Express goalie Kolby Matthews stopped 29 of the 30 shots the Langley Rivermen fired at him Saturday night in their BC Hockey League game at the George Preston Arena in Langley. But it wasn’t enough as the hosts beat their visitors 2-0.

A goal by Langley’s Carter Stephenson while Matthews was on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, as well as a 31-save performance by the Rivermen’s goalie, Braedon Fleming, sealed Coquitlam’s fate.

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It was a tough way to lose the game, said Express coach Jason Fortier, as neither team was able to score until Langley’s William Stromp slid the puck between Matthews’ pads 2:27 into the third period.

“I think we showed a strong work ethic and our guys competed hard,” Fortier said of his side’s first loss after they had defeated the Surrey Eagles 4-2 last Friday at the South Surrey Arena. “It’s something we can build on and continue to create our identity.”

That identity took a major shift last July, when the Express dealt their leading scorer, Eric Linell, to the Eagles for forward Chase Danol and future considerations. Both players ended up scoring in the season opener for their new teams last Friday.

Josh Wildauer got the Express’ campaign off to a quick start when he jumped on a loose puck that Surrey goalie Seth Eisle couldn’t corral and slid it into the Eagles’ net just 12 seconds into the first period.

Linell got his new team on even terms early in the second period on a wrister that beat Coquitlam goalie Clay Stevenson to the stick side, then, 56 seconds later, Danol put the Express back in front when he jammed a shot into the Surrey net.

After Jason Chu tied it, Kabir Gill scored the game winner 16:39 into the second period. It was his first goal after he’d been signed by the Express earlier in the week.

Christian Sanda scored unassisted into the empty Eagles’ net late in the third period to round out the scoring.

Fortier said he liked the team’s energy but he needs his players to make better use of their speed every shift they’re on the ice..

“Each night is an opportunity to improve and have some fun,” he said.

Perhaps fittingly, Danol was named the game’s first star while Linell was its second star. Stevenson’s 32 saves on 34 shots in Coquitlam’s net earned him the third star.

The Express travel to Prince George for a pair of games against the Spruce Kings on Friday and Saturday.


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