The Vernon Vipers moved a step closer to a spot in the B.C. Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup championship series Sunday, whipping the Coquitlam Express 6-1 in front of 1,912 fans at Kal Tire Place.
The win pushes the Interior Division-champion Vipers to 2-0 in the three-team semi-final round-robin tournament. The Mainland Division-winning Express – playing their first game of the round-robin – and the Island Division champion Victoria Grizzlies are both 0-1, each having lost to Vernon..
Victoria visits Coquitlam Tuesday and the two teams meet in Victoria Thursday. The Vipers host the Grizzlies Saturday at 7 p.m at Kal Tire Place.
The winning goal Sunday was credited to Vernon defenceman Dylan Chanter, but it was Express goalie Gordy Defiel who inadvertently played the puck into his own net at 18:46 of the first period.
First star Liam Coughlin had given Vernon a 1-0 lead with a powerplay marker at 11:46 of the opening frame.
After a scoreless second period, the Express pulled to within a goal just 46 seconds into the third period when Bo Pieper beat Austin Smith with a backhand.
Riley Guenther restored Vernon’s two-goal lead at 6:22 with a shot from the right point past a screened Defiel.
Michael McNicholas, Colton Sparrow and Dexter Dancs all scored in the final six-and-a-half minutes for the Vipers.
Smith made 29 saves for his 10th win of the playoffs, while Defiel made 24 saves. Both teams had 30 shots on goal. Vernon was 1-3 with the man advantage, the Express went 0-3.
If needed, Vernon and Coquitlam would meet in the final game of the round-robin Monday, April 7, at the Poirier Sports Centre in Coquitlam.
See Wednesday’s Morning Star for more reaction from Sunday’s contest.