Express take 3-0 series lead

Vipers' forward Liam Coughlin slides the puck past Coquitlam goaltender Gordie Defiel in BCHL Fred Page Cup final series action Monday night at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre.
— image credit: Robert McDonald Photo

Captain Ryan Rosenthal scored 7:46 into overtime as the Coquitlam Express grounded the Vernon Vipers 3-2 Monday night before 1,170 fans at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre.

Rosenthal forced the extra session when he shot from the right side wall and fooled Vernon goalie Austin Smith with 71 seconds left in regulation. Smith was fabulous in overtime and earned third star.

“I think everyone was expecting him to pass the puck. When he threw it on net, it caught everyone off guard, not just Smith," said Viper alternate captain Josh Bryan. "He has saved a lot of games for us this playoffs so were are not hanging this one on him at all.”

The Express found their groove in overtime and outshot the Snakes 12-3.

“Overtime was fast-paced," said Bryan. "They carried some momentum from those late goals and kept it going. We couldn’t really get anything going offensively.”

Bryan said the Vipers are trying to remain calm heading into Game 4. Coquitlam leads the best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Fred Page Cup championship series 3-0.  A fifth game, if required, would go Thursday night in Vernon.

“We had a meeting at breakfast. The coaches told us that we can’t get stressed out. We just need to go back to our instincts and enjoy it. There is no point in putting pressure on ourselves four hours until game time.”

Corey Mackin drew assists on both Rosenthal goals. Mackin grabbed his own rebound in overtime and fed Rosenthal near the crease paint. Brendan Lamont converted from defenceman Zach Hodder for Coquitlam`s other snipe, at 10:29 of the second period.

The Vipers outshot the Express 34-24 in regulation time and went up 8:15 into the first period when d-man Dylan Chanter moved up and beat Gordie Defiel. Tyler Povelofskie and Mason Blacklock drew assists.

Vernon went up 2-0 at 1:14 of the second period when Liam Coughlin took a nifty feed from Michael McNicholas and found an empty net, on the powerplay.

“We definitely outplayed them the first two periods," said McNicholas. "We outshot them 28-12 in the first two periods. They got a few bounces but I still think we have been outplaying them most of the series. Their goalie has made some big saves. We just need to keep playing with confidence and continue to play hard and then we will see what happens. Our backs are against the wall now.”

Each team received three minor penalties.

Coquitlam assistant coach Robert Boyd, who used to live in Vernon and Enderby back in the day, has seen Rosenthal find the net flying down the right wing in the past.

"He's scored a ton of goals from there," said Boyd. "He's always trying to score high from there, but this time he put it six, eight inches stick side and it fooled him (Smith)."

Boyd said the Express celebrated the overtime glory but noted "we haven't won anything yet." He said the Express are not totally surprised to be leading the series.

"The teams are pretty evenly matched. It's just one of those things where we could be down 3-0 as well. The coaching staff is a little concerned that it takes our team so long to get into the games."

It marked the third straight game the Vipers grabbed an early two-goal lead.


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