After a week which saw the Express’ lackluster play get them bumped right out of the running for the postseason and landing them in 10th place, Chicago needed to bounce back with a good showing last weekend. That they did my friends. That they did.
Chicago Express 4, Kalamazoo Wings 3
Chicago started the three-games-in-three nights spread in Kalamazoo against rivals and the North Division leading K-Wings. Apparently there may be such a thing as bus lag, as the Express’ start was anything but good. As per usual the Express got in a bit of penalty trouble, and the Wings took advantage of all three opportunities. Kory Karlander began the scoring for Kalamazoo on a 5-on-3 goal at 12:33. Nick Sirota followed with a power play goal at 14:01, and the Wings took a 3-0 lead into the intermission when Taylor Ellington scored with the man advantage with just 36 seconds left in the period. The Wings lambasted Chicago in the first, outshooting the Express 18-6.
The second period was more evenly matched, but it was the Express who started putting pucks behind K-Zoo goaltender Maxime Clermont. Pierre-Luc Faubert started the scoring with his 18th goal of the season at 7:03. Defenseman Jonathan Zion followed with a goal at 10:08 and Scott Wietecha tied the game at three on the power play at 17:14. The tie held into the third period, until Zion registered his second goal of the game, on the power play with 13:32 left in regulation. Peter Mannino stopped all 12 shots he faced in the final frame, and the Express escaped Michigan with an impressive comeback victory.
Florida Everblades 5, Chicago Express 4 (SO)
The South Division Everblades traveled to the Sears Centre for games on Saturday and Sunday – a worrisome sight seeing as the Express have had very little luck against teams from states which have no winter. Once again, the Express got off to a slow start with only six shots on goaltender Shane Owen in the first period. The Blades scored the only goal of the first, on a shot from Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll just 1:50 into the game. Mannino kept his team in the game early, stopping 13 of 14 shots in the opening period. Kyle Ostrow got his team on the board at 6:43 of the second, tying the game at one. Florida took advantage of a Devin DiDiomete unsportmanlike penalty for snowing the Blades goalie (sigh) and retook the lead on the power play at 9:35. Chicago came right back, with Mike Embach scoring at 10:22 and Chaz Johnson scoring at 11:27, giving the Express their first lead of the contest. David Rutherford re-tied the game just 47 seconds later, as his shot deflected off poor Peter Mannino’s stick and into the net. Poor Emo Mannino.
The teams entered the third period tied at three, but Florida regained the lead on the power play after a tripping call on Mannino – Lalonde-McNicoll scored his second of the game just 3:22 in. The Express put pressure on goaltender Pat Nagle (who came into the game in the third period) and was rewarded when Maxime Gratchev scored with just 53 seconds remaining in regulation, sending the game to overtime. Florida recorded the only shot on goal in the extra frame, and the game went to the juggling contest. While not as entertaining as their marathon shootout in Florida, the shootout still required extra time:
Both goaltenders played well, but it was the Blades that were able to put one more past Mannino. Poor guy, he was wearing his school bus colored “Golden Goalie” jersey too. The Everblades outshot the Express 39-27 in the game.
Chicago Express 6, Florida Everblades 2
Does Mel get tickets to the Express game which is a blowout for the home team and features chippiness and a sassy goalie? Why of course she doesn’t.
Anyway, some bad blood was brewing between these two teams from the night before, as this game featured 77 PIMS, 57 of them from *your* Chicago Express. The first period came and went without a goal, with the Everblades holding a 8-7 shot advantage. The Express took a 1-0 lead on an Aaron Marvin goal 5:56 into the second. The fun began after Devin DiDiomete scored his 11th of the season at 9:54, and true to form, took a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty right afterward during his celebration. Rylan Galiardi was stopped on a penalty shot by Peter Mannino at 15:44 of the second, and the Express took a 2-0 lead into the third period.
I could continue summarizing this game, but I’d rather show you how DiDiomete got his Gordie Howe Hat Trick at 14:39 of the third period:
DiDiomete also got a game misconduct, giving him a mere 25 PIM for the game. Sheesh. Drew Paris, Ryley Grantham (2 goals) and Darcy Campbell scored in the third for Chicago, and Trevor Bruess and Rylan Galiardi scored for Florida. Peter Mannino stopped 25 of 27 shots for the win, in his 20th consecutive start. No wonder he’s emo. More importantly, the Express finally won a game versus a South Division opponent, in their 13th and final attempt this season. SING ALLELUIA!
The Week Ahead: Wednesday (2/29) at Toledo Walleye, Thursday (3/1) at Cincinnati Cyclones, Saturday (3/3) vs. Toledo Walleye, Sunday (3/4) vs. Wheeling Nailers. Tickets for this weekend’s games can be purchased at the Sears Centre box office or on the Express website.
Current Standings: North Division – 1) Kalamazoo Wings, 66 points (56 GP), 2) Cincinnati Cyclones, 60 points (54 GP), 3) Chicago Express, 59 points (55 GP), 4) Toledo Walleye, 52 points (55 GP). The Express are currently sitting in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams in the conference will make the Kelly Cup playoffs. UGH
Stats-O-Rama: Tyler Donati currently leads the team in points with 61 and is fifth in the ECHL…Chaz Johnson leads the team in goals with 18…Tyler Donati has 47 assists which is second in the ECHL…Nathan Lutz is a +19, tied for second in the ECHL…Devin DiDiomete is first in the ECHL with 221 penalty minutes (LAWD)…Peter Mannino is the Express goaltending leader with a GAA of 3.16 and a SV% of .896…The Express are fourth in the ECHL and first in the Eastern Conference in PIM with 1,160, averaging 21.1 penalty minutes a game…Chicago is 13/20 in the ECHL in power play percentage (16.9%) and 19/20 on the penalty kill (78.2%)
Recent Transactions: Taylor Ellington was assigned to the Express from Columbus: he was part of a trade that sent Sami Pahlsson from Columbus to Vancouver…Allen York was reassigned from Columbus to the Express…Drew Paris was returned to the Express from the Toronto Marlies (AHL)…Paul Dainton was named AHL Goaltender of the Week for the Springfield Falcons: he has played in 18 games for the Express…Currently Dan Henningson, Blair Riley, Paul Dainton and Bobby Robins are all playing for various teams in the AHL.