Coming into this past weekend winless since the start of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) season, the Burnaby Express knew they needed to pick up their efforts in order to finally start tallying some points in the win column. The first opportunity to implement this change would come in a back-to-back, home-and-home series against the Surrey Eagles.
Safe to say, there were people that were skeptical of Burnaby’s ability to turn their momentum around all together in one weekend. What these skeptics were definitely not expecting was a complete domination of the Eagles by the Express in both the back-to-back games, with the final results coming to an 8-3 score on Friday night, and a 5-2 final on Saturday night.
“It’s two big wins,” commented Burnaby goalie Mike Chan, who was in net for both the games against the Eagles. “We’re beating Surrey in signs now, and we really needed that because it was a rough start.”
“Rough start” could be a bit of an understatement, as the Express started their season with an 11-3 loss to Powell River, only to follow up with a tie and another couple of losses. However, the 8-3 win against the Eagles to mark Burnaby’s first win of the season was definitely a momentum boost.
“There’s definitely a lot more confidence now,” Chan continues. “Everyone seems to be buying into the system.”
The first win of the weekend saw the Express take a commanding 3-0 lead before the end of the first, and by the end of the second, the Express had taken control of every aspect of the game. Burnaby started hitting harder, shooting more, and eventually outscoring the Eagles 5-1 before the second intermission.
The Eagles, in an attempt to make a comeback, were able to score two more goals early in the third and move within a two goal deficit to the Express. Burnaby, however, was able to score three goals in just over eight minutes to put away the game for good. The numbers were more than sufficient in summarizing the game as the final result was 8-3, with the shots-on-goal ending up at 53-32 for the Express.
The following night brought on the second game of the weekend between these two division rivals, along with it a familiar result as Burnaby was once again able to defeat the Eagles; however, this time with a 5-2 goal margin.
Burnaby Express forward, Max Grassi, agreed that the Saturday night game was a different story in comparison to the night before. “(On Saturday) the Eagles worked harder as a group and challenged us to make plays quicker,” said Grassi after the Saturday night win. “They were better at keeping us away from the front of their net.”
This time, the shots did not tell the story as the Express were only able to muster 19 shots in total, against the 28 the Eagles threw towards the Burnaby net. In the end, it was Burnaby’s ability to take advantage of their power play opportunities that helped them win the game.
The first period saw some evenly played back-and-forth action from both teams. It was the Express, however, that were able to come out in front by a goal before the end of the first. Anthony Collins, from the Express, was able to get his own rebound and tuck it in under Eagles’ goalie, Tom Tartaglione’s right pad, for his first of the season.
The goal came courtesy of the familiar trio of Anthony Collins, Alex Valenti, and Max Grassi. The three have found some chemistry over the past and have successfully been able to ride it through many key games.
“They both are great players,” Grassi commented when asked about his play with Collins and Valenti. “Collins is a big physical presence in the corners and Valenti is a skilled guy, so it’s good to have a mix of the two players. I like to move the puck a lot as well, so we make a good combo.”
In the second, the Eagles decided to take their game a little further as they put on a lot of pressure on the Eagles, outshooting them by a wide margin of 16-6. The Eagles got mixed results as they were able to score a couple of goals before the second intermission. However, a shorthanded giveaway resulting in an Express goal resulted in a 2-2 deadlock after the second period.
When Chan was asked about what he did to adapt to the increase in the number of shots he faced in the second period, he stated that he “continued to stay square to the puck and continued to be ready for anything.”
It was in the third that the Express displayed their ability to be successful on the power play. Five seconds into the third, the Express scored on a scramble play in front of the net, where Reid Edmondson was given official credit for the goal. Almost 11 minutes of hard fought, end-to-end hockey later, the Express were able to double their lead on another power play goal, this time by sniper Garrick Perry. Perry was then able to put away the game for good with his second goal of the game with less than three minutes left on a wicked one-timer from the left circle.
In a one-on-one post-game interview, Grassi commented on what it would take to continue the Express’ rise in the standings. “I think we have to keep on doing what we have been doing the last two games,” states Grassi. “Keeping it simple and working as hard as we can. Everyone has to keep doing their job, and as long as we keep on doing that, we’ll be fine against any opponent.”
Grassi should hope that everyone keeps doing their respected jobs on the team, because the Express have their third showdown in a row against the Eagles come next Friday, and the Eagles will be looking for some payback.