For many hockey fans, the Coquitlam Express has become a household name over the past few years. This Canadian Junior A ice hockey team, located in Coquitlam, British Columbia, has had a remarkable run of success in recent seasons. With back-to-back wins in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) playoffs and multiple players drafted to the National Hockey League (NHL), the Express has firmly established itself as a formidable force in the world of junior hockey. In this article, we will dive into the factors that have contributed to their success and how they have become a dynasty in the making.
First, it’s important to understand the structure of the BCHL and how it differs from other junior leagues in Canada. The BCHL is a Junior A league, which means it is one step below major junior hockey in terms of level of play. This allows players to maintain their NCAA eligibility while playing in the league. This also means that the level of competition is high, as many players see the BCHL as a stepping stone to the NCAA or even the NHL.
Coquitlam Express entered the BCHL in 2001 and has steadily improved over the years. However, it wasn’t until 2019-2020 season that they truly made their mark. Led by head coach Dan Cioffi, the Express finished the regular season with a record of 49-9-0-0, setting a new BCHL record for most wins in a season. They also finished first overall in the league standings, earning them the Ron Boileau Memorial Trophy.
In the playoffs, the Express continued their dominance, sweeping the Chilliwack Chiefs in the first round and defeating the Surrey Eagles in five games in the second round. They then faced the Prince George Spruce Kings in the conference final, winning the series in six games. In the league final, the Express faced off against the Penticton Vees, who had a 34-13-1-0 record in the regular season. In a thrilling five-game series, the Express emerged victorious, claiming their first-ever BCHL championship and securing a spot in the Western Canada Cup.
The success continued in the Western Canada Cup, where the Express defeated the Spruce Kings, the AJHL champion, and the SJHL champion to win the tournament and secure a spot in the National Junior A Championship, also known as the RBC Cup. Unfortunately, the RBC Cup was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Coquitlam Express had already made history as the first team from the BCHL to win the Western Canada Cup.
The shortened 2020-2021 season presented new challenges, but the Express once again proved their dominance. They finished the regular season with a record of 20-9-1-2 and earned the Ron Boileau Memorial Trophy for the second year in a row. In the playoffs, they swept the Langley Rivermen in the first round and defeated the Surrey Eagles in six games in the second round. In the semi-finals, they faced off against the Chilliwack Chiefs, the team they had swept in the first round the previous year. This time, the Chiefs proved to be a tougher opponent, but the Express ultimately came out on top in seven games.
In the league final, the Express faced off against the Prince George Spruce Kings for the second time in three years. In a closely-contested series, the Express once again emerged victorious, winning in five games and securing their second consecutive BCHL championship. This time, the Express had the opportunity to compete in the RBC Cup, which was held in Alberta. They faced off against the AJHL champion, the Brooks Bandits, in the first game of the tournament and once again made history, becoming the first BCHL team to win the RBC Cup.
The on-ice success of the Express can be attributed to the talent of their players and the exceptional coaching of Dan Cioffi and his staff. However, the team’s ownership group, led by Jay and Brian Shaw, also plays a crucial role. Their commitment to developing young players and fostering a winning culture has been a driving force behind the team’s success.
The success on the ice has also translated to success in the NHL draft. In the 2020 NHL draft, four players from the Coquitlam Express were selected, including star forward and captain Massimo Rizzo, who was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the seventh round. In the 2021 NHL draft, two more players from the Express were selected, including Rizzo’s younger brother, Matt, who was drafted by the Ottawa Senators.
The Coquitlam Express has firmly established itself as a dynasty in the making. Their back-to-back BCHL championships and RBC Cup win have put them on the map and solidified their reputation as a dominant force in junior hockey. With a strong ownership group, exceptional coaching staff, and talented players, the Express show no signs of slowing down. Look out, hockey world – the Coquitlam Express is here to stay.