The Express played four games last week, an important stretch while battling to remain in a playoff spot. Perhaps someone should have reminded the team of that. Oh well.
Chicago Express 3, Toledo Walleye 2
Chicago looked to get off to a good start in a busy week at home Wednesday night versus the Walleye. Things looked bleak for most of the game for the Express. Toledo struck first on a power play goal by Todd Griffin scored with 2:32 left in the first period. The Walleye outshot the Express 13-10 in the first frame. The second period featured two fights – one between Devin DiDiomete (SURPRISE) and Joey Ryan and the second between Ryley Grantham and Mike Thomas. Again, the Walleye scored the only goal of the period, at 5:20 by Blackhawks draft pick David Gilbert. The Express went into the third period down 2-0, and being outshot 23-18 by Toledo.
It looked like the Express would drop a valuable two points until Maxime Gratchev woke up the offense, scoring with 8:26 left in regulation. With 2:05 remaining, Captain Nathan Lutz poked a pass past former Rockford IceHogs goaltender Alec Richards to tie the game at two. The Express completed their improbable comeback with just 42 seconds remaining, as Gratchev scored his second of the game after Richards misplayed the puck behind the Toledo net. Peter Mannino saved 37 of 39 Walleye shots, including 16 in the third period to secure the victory.
Cincinnati Cyclones 4, Chicago Express 2
In their only road game during the week, the Express traveled to Cincinnati on Thursday to take on their favorite friends, the Cyclones. Surprisingly both teams only combined for 18 PIM – perhaps they were tired. The Express got the first goal of the game, when Ryley Grantham tucked a rebound behind Cyclones goaltender Chet Pickard at 15:05 of the first. The Cyclones tied the game at one, on a goal by Garrett Wilson with just 2:04 left in the period. The Express took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, when Taylor Ellington scored with just 59 ticks left on the clock.
The Cyclones continued their offensive assault on Chicago, outshooting the Express 26-15 through two. Peter Mannino held firm though, and the Express’ 2-1 lead still held going into the third period. Chicago became derailed (obligatory train joke) in the final twenty though, with Taylor Aronson tying the game at two at 6:03, and Joe Devin giving Cincinnati their first lead of the game just 1:12 later. Matthew Sisca iced the game for the Cyclones, scoring on the breakaway at 16:27. Cincinnati had a decided advantage in shots, with 38 to Chicago’s mere 21.
Toledo Walleye 4, Chicago Express 3 (SO)
For the second time in four nights, the Express took on Toledo at the Sears Centre. The Express got the crowd excited on Rally Towel Night (woo!), when Jonathan Zion scored on a deflection just 3:23 into the game. The towel waving quickly ceased, as Toledo came back to tie the game on a goal by Derek Brouchu just 45 seconds later. Joey Martin followed with two subsequent goals for the Walleye, at 14:24 of the first and 3:29 of the second to give Toledo a 3-1 lead.
The Express steamed back (bonus train reference), with Zion scoring his second goal of the evening, this time on the power play at 8:01 of the second. Nathan Lutz tied the game at 3 on a beautiful backdoor play, putting the puck past Alec Richards at 11:25 of the middle frame. The rest of regulation remained scoreless, with the Express holding a 24-22 shot advantage through three periods. The Walleye notched the lone shot in the extra five minutes, and the two teams headed to the beauty contest. In the shootout, Chicago got out to a 2-1 lead after three shooters, after Taylor Ellington and Chaz Johnson got the puck past Richards. Allen York though gave up goals to Martin and Todd Griffith, and after Devin DiDiomete rung a shot off the post, the Walleye got the extra point and the victory.
Two random game notes: Apparently Allen York forgot the shootout goes to five rounds in the ECHL. After making the save on Toledo’s third shooter, York began celebrating while his teammates on the bench shooed him back to the crease. One wonders if this affected his concentration, as the next two Walleye shooters scored on him. I for one didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Also a Mr. Jonathan Toews was at the Sears Centre to watch his younger brother David play for Toledo. I did manage to spot him trying to be incognito in one of the skyboxes. I did however, leave him and his applesauce brain alone after the game – I figured he had enough stalkers to deal with.
Wheeling Nailers 2, Chicago Express 0
It figures after the longest write up ever (not really), I’d be stuck with summarizing the Express’ worst game of the week last. So I’m making this short – With Allen York in net for Chicago and Peter Delmas in goal for Wheeling, neither team could be bothered to score in the first two periods. The Nailers held a slight edge in shots through two, leading 15-14. After a fight between Ryley Grantham and Wheeling’s Peter Merth early in the third, the Nailers finally broke the seal when Adam Ross put a shot from the point past York with 5:18 left in the game. The Express attempted to come back, but Matt Schepke iced the game for Wheeling with an empty goal with 1:19 remaining. SIGH.
Random Thought: What exactly is a Nailer? Paired with the city name of Wheeling, it really is a somewhat amusing team name.
It was announced over the weekend that the Winnipeg Jets reassigned Peter Mannino to the Portland Pirates (AHL). Mannino made the Pirates’ Clear List today, meaning he is eligible to play in the AHL playoffs and his time with the Express is most likely at an end. Since being sent to Chicago from St John’s on January 13th, Mannino played 22 straight games. He leaves with an 10-8-2-2 record with one shutout, a 3.15 goals against average and an .899 SV%. I will miss Peter and his emo-ness. Good luck in Portland!
The Week Ahead: Friday (3/9) at Kalamazoo Wings, Saturday (3/10) at Kalamazoo Wings. Tickets for upcoming home games can be purchased at the Sears Centre box office or on the Express website.
Current Standings: North Division – 1) Kalamazoo Wings, 69 points (59 GP), 2) Cincinnati Cyclones, 66 points (58 GP), 3) Chicago Express, 62 points (59 GP), 4) Toledo Walleye, 57 points (59 GP). The Express are currently sitting in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference, three points behind eighth place. 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 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 +21, second in the ECHL…Devin DiDiomete is first in the ECHL with 236 penalty minutes (LOLZ)…Peter Mannino is the Express goaltending leader with a GAA of 3.15 and a SV% of .899…The Express are fourth in the ECHL and first in the Eastern Conference in PIM with 1,213, averaging 20.6 penalty minutes a game…Chicago is 16/20 in the ECHL in power play percentage (16.4%) and 17/20 on the penalty kill (79.2%)
Recent Transactions: The Express acquired LW Dennis McCauley from the Reading Royals in exchange for the rights to D Drew Paris…Peter Mannino was reassigned to the Portland Pirates (AHL)…Tom Schaul was signed as an Emergency Backup Goaltender…Two of the Express’ leading scorers, Tyler Donati and Chad Painchaud are on IR