The Coquitlam Express shaded the Vernon Vipers 4-3 in overtime in B.C. Hockey League play Friday night before 1,700 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Florida product Austin McIlmurray stripped Viper defenceman Bo Pellah of the puck just inside the bluet ma line and wired a shot past Jarrod Schamerhorn with 2:19 left in 4-on-4 OT.
Coquitlam improved to 2-1, while the Vipers dipped to 1-2-0-1. Vernon hosts the Chilliwack Chiefs (1-1) Saturday at 6 p.m. Chilliwack lost 4-3 to the Merritt Centennials Friday night at Nicola Valley Arena.
Centre Jackson Cressey, the Express captain and lone member remaining from the team which swept Vernon in the Fred Page Cup finals two seasons ago, led Coquitlam with a pair of goals. He surprised Schamerhorn on a wraparound late in the first period and later buried a rebound in tight, giving Coquitlam a 3-2 lead early in the third.
Jimmy Lambert gave the Snakes a 1-0 lead at 5:35 of the opening 20 on a powerplay, converting a rebound after Riley Brandt’s shot from the left point.
Erik Udahl, with a floater from the ringette line which fooled Schamerhorn five-hole, equalized for the Express on a powerplay seven minutes later.
Cressey made it 2-1 Coquitlam late in the first which saw Vernon enjoy a solid edge in play. Coquitlam’s second shot on net came with 8:12 left in the opening period.
Viper captain Colton McCarthy levelled it at 2-2 on a deflection in front of towering goalie Tyger Howat. Pellah and Odeen Tufto drew assists. Tufto, a Minnesota product who came to camp known as Peter, is now going by his given first name in honour of his late grandfather by the same name.
The Vipers, who outshot the Express 46-29, ruled the third period with a 20-10 shot advantage but either were stoned by Howat, shot at his crest or fanned on shots. Joe Sacco finally finished for Vernon, going top cheddar after a nice feed from behind the net by Hunter Zandee. Jagger Williamson, celebrating his 17th birthday, had the secondary assist.
Vernon called up Cole Demers from the Major Midget Okanagan Rockets as a back-up to Schamerhorn after Andrew Shortridge took a shot to the head in the morning skate Friday.
Howat, 20, was somehow overlooked in the star selections. The Michigan product made his debut with the Express. He has played for eight teams in five different leagues over the last three seasons, getting in 13 tilts with the BCHL Alberni Valley Express in the 2013-14 season.
Elsewhere, the Penticton Vees ambushed the Surrey Eagles 6-2, the Nanaimo Clippers doubled the Victoria Grizzlies 4-2 and the Cowichan Valley Capitals grounded the Powell River Kings 5-1.
Please see Sunday’s Morning Star for further Viper coverage.