Ryan Rosenthal who has been scoring timely goals all playoffs long, may have gotten his two biggest goals thus far in the playoffs. He tied it with 1:11 to go and was the overtime hero at 12:16.
As has been the story all series long the Express dug themselves into an early hole. Vernon came out strong for a third straight game in the series. They had a 6-1 advantage in shots when Dylan Chanter at the side of the Express net scored to open the scoring for Vernon for a third straight game in this series.
Vernon kept up the pressure looking to build on their lead but were turned aside by Defiel who only let Vernon get one in the opening 20 minutes. Defiel was peppered with 17 shots in that first period.
The Vipers built on their lead on a second period power play to open the frame when Liam Coughlin scored on a feed from Michael McNicholas at 1:14. Vernon led 3-0 in the first period of game 1. And have had 2-0 leads in both games 2 and 3.
Vernon kept their foot on the gas pedal in the second period as they looked to have a full 60 minute effort and not allow the Express to get back into the game. There were times in the first half of this game where the Vipers were in complete control of the contest.
Brendan Lamont midway through the second period scored his second of the playoffs for the Express as he buried the rebound of a Zach Hodder point shot that was kicked out by Austin Smith.
Another solid 20 from Vernon saw them with a 1 goal lead and a 28-12 advantage in shots.
But in case you didn't know, you can't allow this Express team to hang around in the third period.
The final frame has been the best for the Express in the playoffs. And the third saw the game start to turn in the Express favor. They didn't have an all out push and were dominating the period. But they were getting their shots and were hoping one would go in.
Well, one did and no surprise it was Ryan Rosenthal. He came down the right wing and snapped a shot from the boards and beat Austin Smith to the far side with just 1:11 remaining. And out of the blue the game was tied at 2.
That goal all of a sudden gave the Express an incredible boost of energy. They were all over Vernon in the final minute of regulation and had a number of great chances to win it before overtime. Rosenthal rang a shot off the post. Marc Biega and Adam Rockwood also had glorious chances before regulation expired.
In the post-season the Express have now outscored their opposition 27-12. And 6-2 so far in this series.
Regulation ended, and the Express momentum carried over from the third period with them.
They came out in overtime with good shifts in the Vipers zone throwing pucks at the net. Adam Rockwood came close to winning it for a second straight game as he was set up in front of the net but the puck found a way to go out of play.
Then came Rosenthal time, he scored on a set up from Corey Mackin getting it past the glove of Austin Smith for his second of the game to give the Express the dramatic 3-2 win and 3-0 lead in the Fred Page Cup final.
Gordie Defiel turned aside 35 of 37 Vernon shots in the Express crease. And like he's done in the playoffs, he's shut the door at key times the longer the games go on.
What started as a 28-12 advantage in shots for Vernon through two periods. It was reduced to just a 37-36 advantage by the time this one was said and done.
Entering game 4 tomorrow, the big question is how does Vernon respond? They've jumped out to great starts in each of the three games in this series and have nothing to show for it. They know no matter what happens in this series they will still have some hockey left as hosts of the RBC Cup in Vernon in May. A loss of that magnitude might have a real deflating effect. But the Express can't let those thoughts creep into their heads. They still have some work to do if they want to finish the job the right way.
Game 4 is Tuesday night with the Express looking to claim their second Fred Page Cup championship in franchise history.