The Express won their second Fred Page Cup championship in franchise history with a 4-3 win in game 4 of the Fred Page Cup final Tuesday night.
This is the first championship for the franchise based in Coquitlam. They were located in Burnaby when they won their first cup in 2006.
They completed a sweep of the Vernon Vipers thanks to a 4th straight come from behind victory.
Jace Hennig flipped the script for the Express in the first period scoring on a scramble when Austin Smith lost the puck between his pads and the puck found it's way in. Vernon had opened the scoring in each of the previous three games of the series. They opened up a 2-0 lead in each of the first three games of the series. Vernon had a 3-0 lead in game one.
Knowing the cup was in the house, Coquitlam showed no signs of nerves knowing what could be theirs if they came away victorious. They had a number of quality chances in the first period including a breakaway for Corey Mackin, Ryan Rosenthal with a chance off the wing, Cody Boyd from the slot and Canon Pieper in the final 20 seconds. There was no doubt the team was ready to play right from the get go.
Vernon matched the Express energy then started to have the momentum start to swing in their direction. Colton Sparrow 42 seconds into the second period evened the score at one finishing off a set up from Brett Mulcahy.
Canon Pieper restored the Express lead at 7:15 when his shot from the left circle beat Smith on the short side.
Vernon's top line of Mulcahy, Colton Sparrow and Brendan Persley put the team on their back and carried them as the Vipers fought hard to make sure the Express weren't celebrating at the end of the night. Brendan Persley pulled Vernon even again when he snapped a shot past the glove of Gordie Defiel just past the midway mark of the second period.
Persley struck again in the final minute of the second period to give Vernon their lone lead of the night when he scored on a feed from behind the net by Sparrow. The trio of Persley, Mulcahy and Sparrow combined for 7 points in the second period with 3 goals and 4 assists. Persley and Sparrow each registered 3 points in the frame.
The stage was set at the start of the third period for another Express comeback. Their final period has been the best in the 2014 playoffs. Things were no different Tuesday.
Bo Pieper pulled the Express even 1:43 with a quick shot beat Smith up high.
With 6:18 remaining Marc Biega was assessed a hooking penalty giving Vernon what appeared to be a key power play with their BCHL Championship hopes hanging in the balance.
But that penalty also gave the BCHL's most dangerous team shorthanded an opportunity as well.
On this night it was Adam Rockwood delivering the goods for the Express. He took advantage of a Vernon turnover and walked in on a breakaway and scored a goal he will remember for the rest of his life as his deke saw the puck eventually bounce past Smith for what would turn out to be the Fred Page Cup winning goal. Rockwood who is a pass first player which is reflected in his goals to assists ratio had just one goal in the playoffs entering the final. The Coquitlam native had three big ones in the series scoring the tying and overtime winning goal in game 2, and the Fred Page Cup winner.
It's fitting that the cup winner would come for this team while a man down. Combining the regular season (19) and playoffs (6) the Express scored 25 shorthanded goals.
The Express finished the series outscoring Vernon 10-1 in the third period and overtime. And all 10 goals came unanswered.
Captain Ryan Rosenthal had a chance to ice it with less three minutes left but was denied on a breakaway.
Then in the dying seconds Vernon had one last close call. Colton Sparrow found himself wide open alone in front of the net where he was robbed by Gordie Defiel, then in one last desperate attempt to tie the game the puck was gloved into the net. Credit to the referee who was in good position to see the play and wave the goal off immediately with 0.4 seconds left on the clock. That meant one final drop of the puck outside the Express zone and a drop of the puck to officially crown the Coquitlam Express 2013-14 Fred Page cup champions.
This team had the belief inside the room led by Head Coach Barry Wolff and his players that they had a good team that gelled into a unit that eliminated Prince George, Langley, Victoria in the semi final round robin and Vernon to earn the title of champions.
The Express now will move on to the Western Canada Cup where they will be joined by the AJHL Champion Spruce Grove Saints, the Winnipeg Blues MJHL champions, and Dauphin Kings WCC hosts to play for two spots in the RBC Cup in Vernon in May. The Yorkton Terriers will look to round out the field for the WCC tonight as they lead the Melville Millionaires 3-0 in the SJHL final.
Coquitlam will begin the WCC on Sunday April 27th when they will play Spruce Grove at 12pm Pacific time.
Click here for full WCC schedule