After a January in which the Express finished 4-6-1-1 (ouch), Chicago needed to get off on the right foot (Skate? Ha – ok, I’m not funny) in February in order to keep pace with the North Division. The Express spent last week on the road again with two games in Trenton, and one in Elmira
Chicago Express 5, Trenton Titans 4
Wednesday night featured the first of back-to-back games against the bottom dwelling Titans. Trenton came out firing in the first period, getting 17 shots on goaltender Peter Mannino. The Titans scored the only goal of the period on the power play, when Randy Rowe fired a one-timer at 15:37 of the first. The floodgates (and five holes) opened in the second with the Express scoring three consecutive goals. Devin DiDiomete scored just 2:41 in the middle frame, and defenseman Scott Wietecha followed with a power play goal just 1:58 later. Anthony Maiani scored his first goal as a member of the Express at 5:09, giving Chicago a 3-1 lead in just 2:28. The Express’ penalty kill failed them again though, as Trenton’s Ryan Hayes scored on the man advantage with just 1:33 left in the second.
Maiani got his second goal of the game at 10:27 of the third, on a Dave Caruso rebound. Trenton’s Mitch “Don’t Call Me Kris” Versteeg got the Titans within one at 13:17, on a blast past Mannino. From there, the teams traded goals, as DiDiomete got his second goal of the game at 15:15, and Trenton’s Ray DiLauro made the score 5-4 at 17:33. The Express managed to hang on, surviving a late Delay of Game penalty to pick up a victory. The Titans blasted 44 shots on goal, compared to Chicago’s 30. I hope the team bought Mannino some Icy Hot on the way back to the hotel.
Chicago Express 6, Trenton Titans 3
The second of two against the Titans seemed to get off to a bad start, as the Express were forced to kill off a two-man advantage just four minutes into the game. Chicago put the momentum from the kill to good use, as Tyler Donati fired a one timer past Trenton goalie Dave Caruso at 12:58 of the period. Devin DiDiomete followed up with a goal of his own at 15:00 to give the Express at 2-0 lead after twenty minutes. The onslaught continued into the second as Kyle Ostrow scored his tenth of the season just 2:53 into the period. DiDiomete potted his second of the game on a two-on-one break at 9:52. The Titans though attempted a comeback – Ray DiLauro scored on the power play, getting a goal by Mannino at 12:56 and and Rob Bordson followed that up with a goal just 2:04 later, to cut the Express lead in half at 4-2.
Never fear though, Mr. DiDiomete was not going to let this lead slip away. DiDiomete scored the first hat trick in Express history, at 18:18 of the second, giving the Express a three goal cushion going into the third. Those of you who had Devin in the “Guess the First Hat Trick in Express History Contest,” please give me the numbers for the Powerball, thanks. Scott Wietecha increased the Express lead back to four, with a goal at 5:41 of the third. Trenton had to be a total buzzkill though, as Tyler Hostetter scored his fourth of the year, with just 36 ticks left in the contest. Both DiDiomete and Donati had monster nights. DiDiomete had 3G, 1A, +5, 14 PIM (heh) on the evening, while Donati was 1G, 4A, +4, 7 SOG. The Express outshot the Titans, 35-28 .
Chicago Express 2, Elmira Jackals 1
The Express headed into Elmira, NY riding a four game winning streak and played a decidedly chippier and more defensive contest against the Atlantic Division Jackals. The game featured two fights, one between Chaz Johnson and the Jackals’ Jordan Lane just 9:43 into the game and a bout between Chicago’s Jonathan Zion and Elmira’s Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel in the second. Despite the fireworks, both teams were held scoreless in the first, with the Express holding a 11-7 shot advantage. Scott Wietecha put Chicago on the board just 1:35 into the second, deflecting a shot off the post and behind Jackals netminder Brian Stewart. On an Express power play, Wietecha scored his second of the game and seventh of the year at 14:59 of the second, giving the Express a 2-0 into the dressing room.
The Jackals gave the Express all they could handle, having shot 28 pucks at Peter Mannino during the second and third periods. Mannino played brilliantly though, the only goal against coming on a penalty shot by Elmira’s Dustin Gazley at 11:55 of the third. The Express managed to kill off two 5-on-3 advantages in the third, and held on to win their fifth contest in a row. Mannino stopped 34 of 35 Elmira shots, while the Express managed 28 shots of their own.
Mannino has now won his last five contests, and has started 11 in a row for the Express. Most has been out of necessity as the Express have had two emergency goalie backups in the last couple of weeks. Devin DiDiomete finished this week with an impressive 5G, 1A, +6, 14 PIM. I guess that recent three-game suspension did him well.
The Week Ahead: Friday (2/10) at South Carolina Stingrays, Saturday (2/11) at Gwinnett Gladiators, Sunday (2/12) at Greenville Road Warriors. The Express return to the Sears Centre Friday, February 17th vs. the Gwinnett Gladiators. DOLLAR WIENERS!
Current Standings: North Division – 1) Kalamazoo Wings, 55 points (45 GP), 2) Chicago Express, 51 points (46 GP), 3) Cincinnati Cyclones, 48 points (41 GP), 4) Toledo Walleye, 40 points (45 GP). The Express are currently sitting in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams in the conference will make the Kelly Cup playoffs
Stats-O-Rama: Tyler Donati currently leads the team in points with 48 and is sixth in the ECHL…Chaz Johnson leads the team in goals with 14…Tyler Donati has 36 assists which is second in the ECHL…Nathan Lutz is a +14…Devin DiDiomete is second in the ECHL with 169 penalty minutes…Peter Mannino is the Express goaltending leader with a GAA of 2.60 and a SV% of .914…The Express are fifth in the ECHL and first in the Eastern Conference in PIM with 960, averaging 20.9 penalty minutes a game…Chicago is 17/20 in the ECHL in power play percentage (15.8) and 15/20 on the penalty kill (80.1%)
Recent Transactions: Goaltender Allen York was assigned from Springfield (AHL) to the Express…Tom Schaul was released as an Emergency Goaltender… Eric Swanic was added and released as an Emergency Backup Goaltender….Currently Drew Paris, Dan Henningson, Blair Riley, Steven Delisle, Paul Dainton and Bobby Robins are all playing for various teams in the AHL.