Burnaby’s Massimo Rizzo having immediate impact with Coquitlam Express

The Coquitlam Express are off to a hot start this year, finishing the first month of the 2019-20 BCHL season with a 7-1 record. The Express’ lone loss of September came against the Langley Rivermen in what turned out to be a 6-1 loss back on September 20th at George Preston Recreation Centre.

The Express got right back to its winning ways, and finished their five-game homestand with a perfect 5-0 record to close out the month of September. The team played an exciting, physical brand of hockey during that homestand. They were hard on the puck, and often made their opponents pay dearly if they coughed up the puck.

The Express was already rolling to start the season, which is why seeing both 2019 Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Massimo Rizzo and 2018-19 leading goal scorer Joshua Wildauer get activated from the IR is such a welcoming sight for Coquitlam.

Rizzo had been suffering from lingering back issues for the past two seasons, but didn’t really know why. Once he and his doctors figured out the issues were due to a hip injury, all the problems went away once his hip problems were resolved. “It’s nice to know and it was nice to hear that,” Rizzo said of learning exactly what was causing his back issues.

Why Rizzo chose Coquitlam

Rizzo’s injury and subsequent rehab played the biggest role in him coming to Coquitlam. After sitting down and trying to think of the best plan for him moving forward with his coaches at his exit interview last season, both sides agreed that it would be best for Rizzo to live at home and be closer to the places he’d been receiving treatment the past few years.

Rizzo had heard good things about the Express and head coach Jason Fortier, which is why he ultimately chose to come to Coquitlam. Rizzo obviously didn’t like missing time to begin the new season with his new team, but was extremely impressed with the way his new teammates were playing to begin the new season.

“I didn’t know a lot of guys coming in, but just talking to guys in the past who have played for Jason, they say he does a really good job, so I got to know him a bit in the summer. We’ve got a great group of guys on and off the ice and I think we’re all buying into the system. Obviously we’ve had a lot of success, our record shows it right now, but I think we’ll just keep getting better,” the UND commit said.

An immediate impact

Getting better is exactly what the Express did when both Rizzo and Wildauer slotted into the lineup playing alongside Connor Gregga on the top line at the BCHL Showcase. At the Showcase, Rizzo picked up his first point in his Express debut, making a slick backhand pass to Gregga, who buried his first goal of the season to give the Express a 1-0 lead over the Chilliwack Chiefs.

In the Express’ second game of the showcase, against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Rizzo was once again showing off exactly why he’s such a welcome addition to this team. “I’m a pretty offensive guy, I like to create plays and be creative. I like to set up my teammates and score goals,” Rizzo said.

That offensive prowess that Rizzo brings to the table will play a huge factor in whether or not the Express can manage to stay near the top of the standings late into the season, and ultimately, play a huge role in how far the Express go in the playoffs. On top of what he brings on the ice, Rizzo also brings leadership along with him.

Serving as the captain of a team with such a great reputation like Penticton, Rizzo is ready to apply what he learned with the Vees and lead this Express team by example. He was recently named an alternate captain of the Express and said that he thinks his team has a great leadership group, lead by defenceman Drew Cooper.

Rizzo has come as advertised so far through two games and will look to continue helping his team find ways to win games and remain near the top of the Mainland Division all season long.