For the first time since returning to the Tri-Cities, the Coquitlam Express are Fred Page Cup champions.
The BCHL club completed the sweep of the Vernon Vipers with a 4-3 win Tuesday night, punching their ticket to the Western Canada Cup.
Canon Pieper, who scored a crucial goal in the second period, said his team wanted to avoid going back to Vernon for Game 5.
“We wanted to close it out at home,” he said. “I didn’t imagine it would go like that. It was a very tight series. We came from behind in every game.”
Unlike the other three games in the BCHL finals, the Express actually started the match with a lead. Jace Hennig scored three minutes into the first period, after burying a pass from line mate Cody Boyd, going ahead 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
The lead was short-lived. Vernon’s Colton Sparrow tied things up 42 seconds into the middle frame before Canon was able to pot his second goal of the series to tie things up at two each.
Vernon that jumped out in front with two quick goals from (ex-Chilliwack Bruin) Brendan Persley, both assisted by Colton Sparrow.
The Express struggled to maintain their composure for the remainder of the second period and Pieper said the team was able to regroup during the second intermission.
“We just talked about simplifying things and getting back to what made us successful,” he said. “I think in doing that it helped everybody relax a little bit.”
Whatever was said in the Express locker room between the second and third period helped. The team came out firing on all cylinders in the third, with Canon’s brother Bo tying things up two minutes into the final frame.
The 1,510 fans at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex held their collective breath when, with six minutes left in the game, Coquitlam’s Marc Biega took a two-minute hooking penalty.
But when Viper defenceman Riley Guenther bobbled the puck in front of his net, Express forward Adam Rockwood was there to capitalize.
Rockwood snuck it past Vernon netminder Austin Smith for the shorthanded go-ahead goal. Vernon played hard in the final minutes, getting numerous chances, all stopped by Express goalie Gordie Defiel.
With 0.4 seconds left in the game it appeared the Vernon forward Sparrow had managed to score a goal but the referee waved it off because of a hand pass.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Express were up 4-3.