Re­tooled Ex­press much im­proved

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff

Safe to say the Co­quit­lam Ex­press is a much-im­proved team.

There was plenty of room for im­prove­ment for a Co­quit­lam crew that went through the en­tire 2017-18 B.C. Hockey League sea­son with just 10 vic­to­ries. That train wreck of a sea­son is now a dis­tant mem­ory and the Ex­press has picked up steam with the ad­di­tion of five new play­ers com­mit­ted to NCAA teams next sea­son.

The Prince Ge­orge Spruce Kings will find out first­hand how much Ja­son Fortier’s Ex­press has ramped up its game when they play host to their Main­land Di­vi­sion ri­vals tonight and Satur­day night at Rolling Mix Con­crete Arena. “I cer­tainly think they’re im­proved, they do have a lot of new faces and see­ing their two games this past week­end it looks like they have some good of­fen­sive abil­i­ties for sure,” said coach Adam Maglio.

“Their D are pretty ac­tive in their O-zone – they like to get in there and try and help cre­ate, they have a pretty good crew and their top-six (for­wards) are pretty fast and of­fen­sive-minded. We have to be aware of who’s on the ice for them. They look a lit­tle more mo­bile on the back end this year in all three zones. They play a run-and-gun, at­tack game and we need to make sure we’re struc­tured and or­ga­nized and in good spots to nab their speed.”

One of those new col­lege re­cruits now play­ing for the Ex­press is Chase Danol, ac­quired Satur­day from the Sur­rey Ea­gles in a swap of for­wards that sent Eric Linell to the Ea­gles, hours be­fore the Ex­press went to Sur­rey and skated to a 4-2 win. Danol, a 19-year-old for­ward, is com­mit­ted to Bowl­ing Green for 2019.

Three Ex­press de­fence­men are col­lege­bound, in­clud­ing re­turnee Jor­dan Schult­ing (UMass-Low­ell), and new­com­ers Pito Wal­ton (Prince­ton) and Jack Cameron (Dart­mouth). They’ve also got Dart­mouth re­cruit Clay Steven­son as the in­cum­bent in goal. For­wards Danol, Dal­las Far­rell (Maine), and Alex DiPaulo (UMass-Amherst) are also on the verge of join­ing the NCAA.

Tonight’s game marks the first clash against the Ex­press for 20-year-old winger Sam Ko­zlowski, whom the Kings ac­quired in a trade from Co­quit­lam last week. The RIT re­cruit scored in each of the Kings’ two games last week­end. Ko­zlowski, who played two full sea­sons for the Ex­press, will be play­ing the right side on a line with Dustin Manz and Pa­trick Cozzi, hav­ing moved up on the depth chart to the sec­ond line.

“He’s go­ing to be ex­cited for it,” said Maglio. “He had a re­ally good first week­end for us and he’s ready to build on that.”

The Spruce Kings (2-0-0) beat Chilli­wack 5-1 and 2-1 to start the sea­son. Af­ter a rather easy ca­pit­u­la­tion in the opener, the Chiefs made it dif­fi­cult for the Kings in the sec­ond game and it wasn’t un­til the third pe­riod the de­fend­ing Coastal Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons were able to flex their mus­cles and take con­trol.

Lo­gan Neaton, 19, played both games last week­end, al­low­ing just two goals, and he will get the start tonight. Maglio plans to give 19-year-old Brad Cooper the nod to play the re­match on Satur­day.

Kings cen­tre Michael Con­lin will miss both games. He’s out with a pulled groin.

The Kings will be in Chilli­wack next week­end for the BCHL Show­case. They play af­ter­noon games Thurs­day against West Kelowna and Fri­day against Pen­tic­ton.

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