The jump is back in Joey's step. A product of Coquitlam minor hockey, Joey Santucci showed the flare for offence that had been reined in much of the past two years while in the Western Hockey League.
His new team, the Coquitlam Express, are happy to let him run.
Santucci scored three times Sunday as the Express lanced the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 9-4, earning a split in the season-opening BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack.
They kicked off the three-day event with a 5-2 loss to the Merritt Centennials on Friday.
"We came out flying. The difference between [Sunday] and Friday is that we worked all 60 minutes," remarked Santucci, who spent the past year-and-a-half as a member of the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders. "We kind of gave up there five-to-10 minutes in the first game... I think we've got a good thing going here."
Corey Mackin, playing in his first BCHL game, tallied twice and set up another, while Daniell Lange, Cameron Marks, Bo Pieper and Nicolas Rasovic added singles.
Turning aside 26 shots was newly acquired Gordie Defiel.
For Santucci, playing in Coquitlam isn't about ending his junior playing career, but giving it a boost.
"Last year was a frustrating year for me," he said. "Coming back here I want to have a good year, put up some points and tonight is a good start for me. More importantly we got the W and that's pretty much all that matters."
Against Merritt, the Express took a 2-1 lead early on Lange's well-played shot from in close. But the Interior rival rallied with three goals in 54 seconds to pick up the win.
That the team was flying offensively on Sunday - both teams struggled on defence - was just a reality of September hockey.
"The first game we weren't happy about," noted Coquitlam coach Barry Wolff. "For whatever reason we just didn't relax as the game went on, we stayed nervous... It was great to see the guys get some goals and bounce back (Sunday)."
Getting to use his offensive skills is one reason why Santucci feels comfortable with his homecoming. In major midget he posted pointper-game numbers, but managed just a goal over 48 games in Prince Albert - and dressed for only 37 games last season.
"I knew I had to have a good year. Coquitlam was rebuilding and they have a new coach [Wolff] who's awesome. Knowing everything was going in the right direction here made the transition all [the] better."
The Express' next game is Sunday in Surrey. Their home opener is Sept. 21 against Langley.
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