They came from behind in four straight games to sweep the Vernon Vipers in last year’s Fred Page Cup championship series.
The Coquitlam Express appeared poised to rally for another stunning win Saturday night until roadrunner T.J. Dumonceaux scored twice as the Vipers posted a 5-3 victory in B.C. Hockey League play before 1,800 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Both teams have just five players who competed in the league playoff round-robin and final series, but Dumonceaux noted the Vipers badly wanted some payback.
“We wanted that one for sure,” said Dumonceaux. “We talked about that before the game: we told everybody it’s a big one. It feels good to beat them.
“We outshot them like crazy (45-23 in opening 40 minutes). Their goalie (rookie Braden Krogfoss) stood on his head and made some really nice saves. I think the score could have been 9-3. It wasn’t our best effort defensively. We fell apart in the third, but it was good to get a win out of it.”
Towering Vernon product Noah Turanski, a rookie forward with the Express, struck iron with a wrister on a breakaway just 27 seconds into the game. The 16-year-old has two goals on the season.
“It was nerve-wracking during the anthem, but coming down the ice on a breakaway first shift and ringing it off the post got the nerves right out,” said Turanski, who played Midget for Pursuit of Excellence in Kelowna last year.
Vernon went up 3-0 before the five-minute mark of the first period. Liam Finlay jumpstarted things by converting his 18th of the year, from Anthony Latina and d-man Luke Shiplo (three assists), 60 seconds after the anthem.
Thomas Aldworth, with his 33rd and Liam Coughlin, with his 17th, pocketed powerplay snipes 78 seconds apart before Brendan Lamont countered for Coquitlam eight minutes later, from linemates Corey Mackin and Brett Supinski. Mackin was cranked behind the net by Viper centre Colton McCarthy just as he delivered a gorgeous feed to Lamont in the low slot.
The Express, who lost captain Joey Santucci early in the opening 20 when he was levelled by Dumonceaux along the sidewall, looked to their top forward unit for more offence in the third session.
Lamont and Supinski drew helpers as Mackin rang up his league-leading 39th goal of the season on a power play 2:44 into the third. Supinski turned and fired from the high slot and fooled Viper goalie Jarrod Schamerhorn (19-10-1) with the equalizer six minutes later, helpers going to Lamont and Mackin.
Supinski, like Mackin, a Pennsylvania product, has 31 goals. Their line leads the BCHL with 4.7 points a game and have accounted for more than half of Coquitlam’ goals.
Express d-man Jivan Sudhu took a minor for tripping the speedy Aldworth deep in the Coquitlam zone and Dumonceaux dialed up the winner 20 seconds into the powerplay, assisted by Shiplo and Finlay. Just 14 seconds later, Dumonceau converted nicely from Aldworth on a bang-bang play.
“Sometimes, we maybe rely too much on our top line and maybe some guys feel that when they start going, we’ve got it in the bag, but that’s not always the case,” said Coquitlam assistant coach Robert Boyd, an Enderby product. “Turnovers and penalties cost us in the third period.”
Boyd’s nephew, Cody Boyd, an alternate captain, left the Express last week to play for the Cansius College Golden Griffins in Buffalo since he turned 21.
The Vipers’ tornado transition game was too fast for the Express most of the night.
“This is the funnest year of hockey for me ever; I’m loving it,” said Dumonceaux, who should be getting a NCAA scholarship any day now. “Everybody’s so creative and we have so many skilled and fast players, and everybody’s so passionate about the game this year.”
Shiplo has been a rock star since the Christmas break and the former Toronto Lakeshore Patriot also loves the Vipers’ culture and make-up.
“It’s incredible, it’s so much fun. We have so many skilled forwards, but we also have guys who play a role and bang bodies and just do whatever it takes to win,” said the Oakville, Ont. product. “We have a really tight team. There are no cliques and we have a great coaching staff that makes our team that way.”
SNAKE BITES: Finlay was ranked 189th among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting midterm report, released Tuesday…The Vipers improved to 28-11-1-2 and visit the Merritt Centennials Saturday…Sapinski had four snipes as the Express lost 7-5 to the host Prince George Spruce Kings Sunday. The Express dipped to 16-24-1-4…Aldworth was stoned by Krogfos on a pair of breakaways, getting two or three rebound whacks both times…Viper grad Kellen Jones had 1+1 as the Oklahoma City Barons lost 8-7 to the visiting Rochester Americans in AHL play Saturday. Ex-Penticton Vee Zac Dalpe netted the shootout winner.