The Express entered the week in 10th place in the conference, vying with the Cincinnati Cyclones and Reading Royals for the eighth and final playoff spot. With four games on the schedule last week, it really was make-or-break for Chicago.
Chicago Express 3, Wheeling Nailers 1
The Nailers from Wheeling made their first appearance at the Sears Centre last Wednesday. The first period was a glorious goaltending display by the Express’ Rob Madore, as he stopped all of Wheeling’s 19 shots. Madore stopped two Nailers breakways in the first period alone. The Express countered with 11 shots of their own in the first, with just the one getting by Peter Delmas, a power play goal by Scott Wietecha from the point with just 3:10 remaining in the period. The Nailers came back to tie the game at one in the second, when defenseman Peter Child scored his first professional goal at 10:55 of the period. The Express went into the final period up 2-1, when Darcy Campbell scored on the power play for Chicago with just 2:52 left in the second. Wheeling held a 28-17 shot advantage through two periods. The Nailers’ penalty kill gave them little chance to get back into the game, as Danick Paquette scored the Express’ third power play goal of the evening (Wut?) at 16:40 of the third period. Madore stopped 34 of 35 Wheeling shots and was awarded #1 Star of the game for his efforts.
Chicago Express 5, Toledo Walleye 2
The Express welcomed the Walleye to the land of dollar beer and hot dogs on Friday night. In fourth place in the North Division, the Walleye are all but eliminated from the playoff race, but I’m sure they would’ve liked nothing better but to play spoilers to their divisional rival. Better luck next time, fishies. The Walleye did make some noise early, as Todd Griffith scored on Rob Madore just 1:49 into the game. Most folks were probably still in line for cheap beer and probably missed the goal anyway. Hopefully they were back into their seats soon enough, as Chicago’s Pierre-Luc Faubert knotted the game at one just 2:52 later. The Express took their first lead of the game at 7:40 when Faubert scored his second of the evening on the power play.
The Walleye attempted to make things interesting in the second, when Mike Thomas scored at 9:36 of the period to get Toledo within one. The Express peppered Alec Richards with 17 shots in the second – the former Rockford IceHogs goalie was able to stop all but one, when Scott Wietecha extended the Express’ lead back to two with 4:54 left in the period. The period also featured a spirited scrap as Danick Paquette took on Taylor Emmerson. The third was all Express, as Matt Gingera scored his first professional goal at 3:17 and Drew Paris added yet another power play goal at 10:21. Derek Brochu was awarded a penalty shot for the Walleye with 3:33 left (where’s Edzo when you need him?) but Madore shut the door, handing the Express a 5-2 victory. Chicago led the Walleye in shots, 24-21, and Rob Madore got his third win in just his fourth professional start.
Trenton Titans 4, Chicago Express 1
Go ahead and blame the next two games on me. I made the astute observation right before puck drop on Saturday night that Trenton “was one of the worst teams in the ECHL.” Can you say “Trap Games?”
Neither the Express nor Trenton scored in the first period, with Chicago leading in shots 11-8. The Express only managed a mere three shots in the second period, while the Titans put 12 on Rob Madore. Two of those twelve shots hit twine, as Ryan Hayes scored first at the 10 minute mark, and Andy Bohmbach followed at 16:06 on the power play to give the Titans a 2-0 lead going into the third. Maxime Gratchev got the Express within one, scoring at 9:48 on the power play, knuckling a shot past goaltender Brad Phillips. Despite pressure from Chicago, Randy Rowe put the dagger in the Express, scoring with just 2:57 left in the game to give the Titans a 3-1 lead. Bohnbach added an empty netter with 1:03 left, and that was all she wrote. The Titans held a slight edge in shots, 29-26.
Trenton Titans 5, Chicago Express 4 (OT)
Looking to put the previous game behind them, the Express faced Trenton in the second of back-to-backs on Sunday afternoon. Brooks Ostergard made his professional debut in net for the Express and nearly managed to shutout the Titans – for the first period anyway. Former Express forward Drew Akins welcomed Ostergard to the pros, scoring with just 29 seconds left in the first period to give the Titans a 1-0 lead. The Express came back quickly in the second, with Danick Paquette scoring just 4:14 into the period on the power play. Ray DiLauro regained the lead for the Titans, scoring with 3:55 left in the second. The Express held a slight edge in shots, 19-18 through two periods.
It looked like the Titans took complete control of the game when Akins haunted his former team again, scoring at 2:16 of the third to give Trenton a two goal lead. The Express showed some life when Pierre-Luc Faubert got a puck by Dave Caruso just 55 seconds later. Things looked grim though when Andy Bohmbach scored his third goal in two nights at 12:41 to give the Titans a 4-2 lead. Chicago took advantage of some late penalty trouble by the Titans, and scored two consecutive power play goals – one by Scott Wietecha at 16:35 and the second by Jonathan Zion with just 2:11 left in regulation to send the game to overtime. The luck soon ran out though for the Express, and DiLauro scored his second of the game with just 21 seconds remaining in the extra frame. But a point’s a point, right?
This was the last game in the regular season for the Express against a non-North Division opponent *cue ominous music*
You may have seen the gloriously special St Patrick Day Express jerseys when they were featured on Puck Daddy last week. Well after they were worn during Saturday night’s game, all of the jerseys (even Trax the mascot’s) were auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the American Brain Tumor Association. I had to have one of these bad boys, and I succeeded. I am the proud owner of a tacky jersey worn by defenseman Steven Delisle during the game. I may not look totally thrilled in the photo above, but it’s probably because the jersey still reeked of hockey stank. You know what kind of smell that is *gag* It was a fun auction, and the highest jersey was Darcy Campbell‘s, which went for $2,000. A total of $15,050 was raised for a fine cause. So if you ever see me around with this jersey at the Sears Centre, feel free to say hi. I’m only slightly socially awkward.
SQUEE Photo of the Week
The Week Ahead: Wednesday (3/21) at Cincinnati Cyclones, Friday (3/23) at Kalamazoo Wings, Saturday (3/24) vs Kalamazoo Wings, Sunday (3/25) vs Toledo Walleye. 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, 78 points (66 GP), 2) Cincinnati Cyclones, 69 points (65 GP), 3) Chicago Express, 69 points (65 GP), 4) Toledo Walleye, 62 points (66 GP). The Express are currently sitting in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference, by virtue of Cincinnati having the tiebreaker (non-shootout wins) over the Express. 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…Pierre-Luc Faubert leads the team in goals with 19…Tyler Donati has 47 assists which is tied for fourth in the ECHL…Scott Wietecha has 14 goals, good for second in the ECHL for all defensemen…Nathan Lutz is a +22, tied for first in the ECHL…Danick Paquette fourth in the ECHL with 199 PIM…Rob Madore is the Express goaltending leader with a GAA of 2.21 and a SV% of .930…The Express are fourth in the ECHL and first in the Eastern Conference in PIM with 1,311, averaging 20.2 penalty minutes a game…Chicago is 8/20 in the ECHL in power play percentage (18.3%) and 16/20 on the penalty kill (80.1%)
Recent Transactions: The Express signed goaltender Brooks Ostergard…Brett Motherwell, Kyle Ostrow, Tyler Donati and Chad Painchaud are on IR…Motherwell has been assisting the team behind the bench during his injury