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UPDATE: Coquitlam Express within one game of Fred Page Cup victory
For Ryan Rosenthal, it's now how the game begins that matters but how it ends.
And the Coquitlam Express captain managed an exciting finish in Game 3 of the BCHL Fred Page Cup finals Monday night, scoring with just over a minute left in the third to tie it up before potting the game-winner in overtime.
Coquitlam struggled early, managing just 12 shots in the first two periods against the burly Vernon Vipers, whose forwards managed to keep the home team hemmed into their own end for most of the first 40 minutes.
But Coquitlam was undeterred, Rosenthal said.
"Going into the locker room when we are down a goal, we still have a lot of confidence," he said after the game. "Everyone is pretty sure we can come back and win the game. We go out there with confidence."
Coquitlam looked like a different team in the third, quickly doubling their shot total and using their speed to keep the play in Vernon's end.
But goals were elusive on Monday night and it wasn't until Rosenthal managed to streak down the right-wing to put the puck past Vernon goalie Austin Smith with just 71 seconds left in regulation that the Express were able to tie it up.
The captain had been unsuccessful on a similar attempt a minute earlier, but managed to hit twine on the second chance from an awkward angle to make it 2-2.
"I was just looking for a spot to shoot at," he said. "I was just trying to find a way to get it to the net and maybe someone would get the rebound."
In the final goal of the game, Rosenthal passed to teammate Corey Mackin, who was too low to take a shot. Mackin passed it right back to Rosenthal who buried the game winner. The club now takes a 3-0 series lead in the finals, one game away from taking home the Fred Page Cup.
But Monday's celebration will be short lived, according to Express coach Barry Wolff.
With Game 4 expected to take place Tuesday night (after The Tri-City News' deadline) he said it was important for his players to stay focused on the series.
"It's far from over," he said. "We know Vernon is not going to go away. They are going to come out even harder than they have. They are desperate now."
Wolff has been in a similar position before.
In 2005 he was the assistant coach with the Surrey Eagles when that squad was in the Fred Page Cup finals.
And the team at the other end of the rink during that series? The Vernon Vipers, a club that has made 19 trips to the championship and have never been swept.
Wolff and the Eagles were successful in 2005 and the coach is hoping for a repeat with the Express, hopefully as early as Tuesday night.
On Monday, Vernon opened the scoring midway through the first period, when Dylan Chanter buried a pass from Tyler Povelofski past Coquitlam goalie Gordie Defiel. The 1,163 fans at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex were further silenced early in the second period when Viper forward Liam Coughlin made it 2-0 on the power play.
But the Express were not ready to concede the game.
Brendan Lamont got Coquitlam on the scoreboard midway through the second off a pass from Zach Hodder that made it 2-1.
Rosenthal was given the first-star of the game for tying the game and his overtime heroics, while Lamont was named second star for his efforts and his goal in the second.
Vernon Vipers goalie Austin Smith was named third star of the game.
• Game 4 of the Fred Page Cup finals were scheduled to take place Tuesday night at 7 p.m. after The Tri-City News' deadline. For a full game report go to www.tricitynews.com.