The Coquitlam Express will meet a familiar foe in the first round of the BC Hockey League playoffs.
The league’s regular season champions opens its post season against the Langley Rivermen, which finished fourth in the Mainland division.
The first two games of the best-of-seven series will be at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex, Feb. 28 and March 1. Both games start at 7 p.m. The series then shifts to Langley March 3 and 4.
The divisional rivals met seven times in the regular season, with the Express winning all but two of the games. Both of those setbacks came early in the season, when Coquitlam lost to the Rivermen 6-1 in September and 2-0 in October. Their most recent encounter was on Jan. 31, when the Express defeated Langley 5-0 at Poirier.
Clay Stevenson earned the shutout in that game, but last week the Express formally announced the star goalie won’t be available during the post season so he can retain his full eligibility to play and study at Dartmouth College in September.
Stevenson turns 21 on March 3, and an obscure NCAA rule that applies only to men’s hockey and diving meant he would have lost a year of his eligibility had he played a Junior A game after his 21st birthday. Even a loophole that would have retained his full eligibility had he enrolled at a local school like Douglas College or Simon Fraser University that doesn’t have a varsity hockey program then transferred in the fall didn’t work in his favour as Ivy League schools don’t allow such transfers.
Stevenson had a breakthrough season for the Express, despite losing his mom — and biggest supporter — to suicide while he was in training camp. He won 30 games and lost only twice. He earned four shutouts and his goals against average of 1.77 was the best in the BCHL. He’s a top contender for the league’s most valuable player award.
The Express closes out its regular season home schedule tonight against the Surrey Eagles, 7:15 p.m., at Poirier. The team then travels to Prince George for a pair of games against the Spruce Kings on Friday and Saturday.
Read more about Clay Stevenson's remarkable season