The Express had a relatively light workload last week, with only two games over the weekend in scenic Kalamazoo. On the cusp of not making the playoffs with only a few weeks left in the season, every point counts!
Kalamazoo Wings 5, Chicago Express 2
Friday night saw the first of two contests between Chicago and the North Division leading Wings. The recently signed Rob Madore made his professional debut in net for the Express, having just finished his collegiate career at the University of Vermont. Madore was sharp early, stopping all 18 Wings shots in the first period. The Express scored the only goal of the first, a shorthanded goal by Mike Embach at 10:13 of the period. Things went south quickly for Chicago in the second, mostly due to their inability to stay out of the penalty box. Shocking. The K-Wings scored thrice in the second – power play goals by Mike Matczak at 5:50 and Dwight Helminen at 8:07, and an even strength goal by Eric Kattelus at 17:05, just one second after an Express penalty expired. The Wings pelted Madore with 34 shots through two periods, compared to Chicago’s 21.
The Express made a weak comeback attempt in the third, with Danick Paquette scoring 5:08 into the period to get Chicago within one. From there, the game evolved into a complete mess. Captain Nathan Lutz received a charging major and game misconduct at 15:29 and Devin DiDiomete got a match penalty for a deliberate attempt to injure with just 1:06 left in the game. Oh yeah, the Wings scored twice in the third as well – goals by Heleminen and Steven Anthony completed the resounding victory for Kalamazoo. The Wings had 11 power plays in the game, and outshot the Express 46-30. It was a valiant pro debut by Madore, having stopped 41 of those shots in front of a team that lost its mind, apparently.
Chicago Express 2, Kalamazoo Wings 0
Unlike the previous night’s game, Saturday’s contest was a more sedate affair, with only six penalty minutes called the entire game. The first period was scoreless, although the K-Wings did pepper Rob Madore with 15 shots through the first twenty minutes. The scoring didn’t begin in the game until 11:43 into the second period, when Danick Paquette scored off a rebound on Wings goaltender Brad Fogal. Chicago went into the third with a 1-0 lead, which was doubled when Jonathan Zion scored 7:43 into the period. The Wings pulled the goaltender with 1:07 left in regulation, but Madore shut the door, stopping all 26 Kalamazoo shots for a shutout in only his second professional game. Madore is the fifth goaltender to play for the Express this season after Robby Nolan (traded), Allen York (in Columbus), Paul Dainton (recalled to Springfield – AHL) and Peter Mannino (reassigned to Portland – AHL).
Devin DiDiomete: A Haiku
Two forty and six
Minutes sitting in the box
Four suspensions. Bye
As mentioned in the recap, DiDiomete was issued a match penalty at the end of Friday night’s game with the K-Wings. The incident was captured on video (above). It’s hard to tell from the quality of the video, but DiDiomete bounced a player’s head on the ice. On purpose. Needless to say, the ECHL hammer came down hard on him, and he was issued a seven game suspension for his dumbness. Shortly after the suspension was announced, the Express issued a statement of DiDiomete’s release from the team. At the time of his release, DiDiomete was leading the ECHL in penalty minutes, with 246 in 38 games, 36 of those games with the Express. The sad part is DiDiomete could be an effective agitator with some offensive upside if he could keep his temper in check. DiDiomete had 10G and 14A with a +8 in his 36 games, and scored the first hat trick in Express history. With six games left on his suspension, it seems doubtful another ECHL team would take a risk on him this late in the season. It would not surprise me however, to see him back in the E with a team next year.
The Week Ahead: Wednesday (3/14) vs. Wheeling Nailers, Friday (3/16) vs Toledo Walleye, Saturday (3/17) vs Trenton Titans, Sunday (3/18) vs Trenton Titans. 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, 73 points (62 GP), 2) Cincinnati Cyclones, 67 points (61 GP), 3) Chicago Express, 64 points (61 GP), 4) Toledo Walleye, 58 points (62 GP). The Express are currently sitting in the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference, three points behind eighth place. The top eight teams in the conference will make the Kelly Cup playoffs. The Express’ last seven games of the season are against North Division opponents.
Stats-O-Rama: Tyler Donati currently leads the team in points with 61…Chaz Johnson leads the team in goals with 18…Tyler Donati has 47 assists which is fourth in the ECHL…Nathan Lutz is a +23, first in the ECHL…Danick Paquette is 5th in the ECHL with 188 PIM…Rob Madore is the Express goaltending leader with a GAA of 2.50 and a SV% of .931 (small sample size, I know)…The Express are fourth in the ECHL and first in the Eastern Conference in PIM with 1,256, averaging 20.6 penalty minutes a game…Chicago is 16/20 in the ECHL in power play percentage (16.1%) and 16/20 on the penalty kill (79.1%)
Recent Transactions: The Dennis McCauley/Drew Paris trade with the Reading Royals was voided due to McCauley not passing a physical…Devin DiDiomete was given his outright release…Allen York was reassigned to the Columbus Blue Jackets…RW Dannick Paquette was acquired from the Utah Grizzlies in exchange for D Evan Stephens…G Rob Madore signed a contract with the Express…Drew Atkins was traded to the Trenton Titans for future considerations…The Express signed F Matt Gingera… Two of the Express’ leading scorers, Tyler Donati and Chad Painchaud are on IR