The Coquitlam Express are looking to not only make the playoffs but win a championship. That’s what every team is looking to do, according to Express Head Coach Jason Fortier.
“It’s something we believe is not out of the realm. Character is what really decides championship teams, and with the guys we’ve recruited, we’re excited to see how they do and perform, and be a part of their journey. I think we have a lot of guys with lots to offer, and if everything goes according to plan, we could be playing late into May,” said Fortier when asked what he is hoping his team can accomplish as a group this year.
Playing late into May would be huge for the Express, who were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round last year by the Prince George Spruce Kings in five games. The year prior, the Express were swept in the first round by the Penticton Vees.
Heading into his second full season with the Express, Fortier is cautiously optimistic about the road ahead, as the Express try to capture their first Fred Page Cup since 2014.
“I think we have a really good group of guys that have come in. I think the effort guys have put in during the summer for training is there. We’re realistically looking for guys to step up and fill the roles that everybody is trying to establish here. Everybody here has a clean slate and they’re trying to make a name for themselves.”
The Express added some key players to their roster this offseason, including 19-year-old Adam Trotman. Trotman recorded 51 points in 50 games with Newmarket Hurricanes of the OJHL last season. He is a player who coach Fortier feels will have a big impact on his team’s lineup.
The big acquisition this off-season is hometown talent Massimo Rizzo, who expressed interest in coming to the Express after battling a back injury last season. A Burnaby native, Rizzo and his family felt it was best for him to be close to his doctors and close to home as he rehabilitates his injury. Rizzo has two seasons in the BCHL under his belt and posted 79 points through 90 games with the Vees.
Rizzo was drafted in the 7th round, 216th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2019 draft this past June. Fortier thinks a player of Rizzo’s calibre will add some high-end talent to the team.
“He’s got a high-end skill set, really good IQ. It’s going to take him a bit of time to get back from his injury, but we think once he’s ready and once he’s healthy, we’re going to get the best Rizzo.” The Express will be waiting until Rizzo is 100 percent healthy before adding him to their lineup. “You don’t win a league title in September,” added Fortier.
Other notable additions for the Express are Christian McDougall, Nicholas Carabin, Tyler Schleppe, and 17-year-old defenceman and Coquitlam native James Bohn. The Express will play four preseason games, against the Wenatchee Wild, Surrey Eagles, Langley Rivermen and Nanaimo Clippers, in that order, before playing its season opener on Sept. 7 in Langley against the Rivermen.
The Express then face the Surrey Eagles on Sept. 13, before once again facing the Rivermen on Sept. 20. The Express will then play their home opener on Sept. 21 against the Chilliwack Chiefs. Be sure to follow both me and the BCHLNetwork on Twitter for coverage of the Express and the rest of the BCHL all season long!