Despite a torrid pace to start the game, the Vernon Vipers just didn't look like the team that defeated the Warriors, Vees, Grizzlies and even the Express in this post season. Special teams and turnovers proved to be the difference in game 1 of the Fred Page Cup Finals as the Coquitlam Express were able to steal home ice advantage away in this best of 7 series.
After 12 days off it was crucial for the Vipers to get off to a quick start and thats exactly what happened as Brendan Persley opened the scoring off a partial breakaway just 40 seconds into the game. The Snakes would add another as Brett Mulcahy snapped a shot from the slot after a nice pass from Colton Sparrow and just 3 minutes in it was 2-0. Following a big penalty kill, Demico Hannoun would convert on a two on one and make it 3-0 late in the first and that was the score heading into the first intermission. Not to be overlooked was a spectacular glove save from Austin Smith which can be seen on the BCHL Facebook page.
The second period started off well for the Vipers as they had their first two shifts entirely in the offensive zone, that momentum wouldn't pay off as it was the Express counter attacking and Canon Pieper banging in a rebound to make it 3-1. The Vipers would then find themselves shorthanded and it would be Bo Pieper scoring to make it 3-2 past the midway mark of the period. It was then Coquitlams turn to find themselves in penalty trouble, but the Vipers couldn't convert and that would prove costly as while shorthanded, Corey Mackin would steal the puck from Jared Wilson and lift a backhander over Smith to tie the game up late in the second period.
The Vipers seemed to find their legs early in the third as a nice pass from Hannoun sent Blacklock in and he'd restore the Viper lead to 4-3. It wasn't long before it was tied as Bo Pieper scored his second of the game just 3 and a half minutes later. The momentum continued in the favour of the Express and Bo Pieper would get his hat trick goal just over 90 seconds later and it was 5-4 Express. The dagger would come 3 minutes later as Corey Mackin spun a shot from the right circle that eluded Smith to make it 6-4 Coquitlam and that would be the final score.
My 3 Key Thoughts
1) - Flurry of goals - The Vipers scored three unanswered goals to start the game, but it was the Express who one upped that situation by scoring three unanswered goals twice. To tie the game then add some insurance in the third period. Its no secret that both of these teams know how to score goals, but I'm not sure anyone expected 10 goals to go up on the board in game 1. I don't think the coaches were overly happy with their teams defensive play through most of the game and most likely will be making some adjustments.
2) - Turning Point - The turning point of this hockey game was when it was 4-3 and the Vipers were trying to put the game away. Gordie Defiel made an absolutely phenomenal save by stacking the pads to rob Colton Sparrow. That proved important as the Express would tie the game up moments later and wouldn't look back. Hindsight is 20/20, but I think the game would've had a different outcome had that puck gone in the net. Hats off to Defiel who seemed to fight the puck early in the game, but rebounded with a solid effort for the final 40 minutes.
3) - Special Teams - The Vipers were 0 for 5 with the PP and allowed a shorthanded goal. The Express were 1 for 5 with the PP and scored a shorthanded goal. Special teams in the playoffs are crucial and in game 1 of the Fred Page Cup Finals its the Express who took advantage.
There was a lot of disappointment following the game 1 loss, but Jason Williamson said in the post game show, that he wants it to sting the players a little bit. Remember the feeling of letting a game like this slip away, and avoid that feeling again. The Vipers have rebounded nicely following losses in the playoffs. They have only lost back to back games once. I expect a much better complete effort from this Vipers team who now look to making sure this series goes at least 5 games.
Game 2 is Saturday night at Kal Tire Place. You can catch all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45 with the puck drop at 7. You can also see it on Fasthockey PPV.