When you’re heading into a tough, three-game road trip and you’re going to miss four of your brightest stars for the 2nd and 3rd games, it sure is nice to win the first contest.
And the Warriors did that on Friday in Coquitlam. Somehow.
For the first half of the game, the Express took the play to the Warriors and looked much more organized and dangerous than their guests. Coquitlam also played with a lot of pace early on. While play was scrambly both ways, the Express certainly had the best of it.
Coquitlam took the lead just a minute in when a shot trickled through Andy Desautels without the WK netminder realizing where it was. Canon Pieper was the first one to nudge the puck in, giving the Express a dream start after their nightmare on Thursday in Langley.
Coquitlam would continue to force the issue for much of the first period, drawing four powerplays (which maybe could have even been 5 or 6) and spending extended periods in the WK zone. But thanks to some excellent PK work the Warriors escaped the opening period down just the one goal.
The Express doubled their lead midway through the second on a point blast from Zach Hodder during a 5-on-3 powerplay. However, from that point on, the Express seemed to sit back a little, while the Warriors found their game.
Jason Cotton struck a huge blow when he wristed one into the top corner after a wild scramble in the Coquitlam zone. The goal came with 2 ½ minutes left in the second, and gave the Warriors new life heading into the third.
And in the third, West Kelowna turned it on and finally began to take the play to their hosts. Shots counted 10-7 Coq in the first, 14-12 WK in the second, and 12-6 in the third, and I do think that’s a good representation of how the game played out.
The Warriors drew even courtesy Reid Simmonds, with the Express struggling to clear their zone despite some easy chances. Just 1:07 later, David Pope slipped a deke past Gordie Defiel after a lovely little feed from Jordan Masters. And after being outplayed for the first half of the game, the Warriors had taken a shock lead.
Suddenly behind the eight-ball, the Express began to play aggressive, risky hockey and it paid off for them. With three minutes left, Bo Pieper knocked in a rebound to retie the game. After a night of back-and-forth stuff, overtime seemed both likely and fair.
Reid Simmonds, however, had other ideas. Making his return to the Warriors lineup, Simmonds muscled up the left wall and fired a sharp-angle shot that snuck its way through Defiel with just 22 seconds remaining.
It was a bit of a sloppy game all around and I think the Warriors can feel a little lucky to have prevailed, especially in regulation. But it’s an emotional win and a big two points (especially after the 3-point game between the Vees and Vipers).
Of course, seeing Reid Simmonds come through like that was just awesome. Click here to listen to my post-game interview with Reid Simmonds.
It’s been quite a week for Reid Simmonds. I spoke to the Calgary product after the game. Click here to listen to that.
Ben Tegtmeyer took an awkward hit early in the third period and didn’t return to the game. He sustained an upper-body injury on the play and (while he’s proven me wrong before) I would be surprised to see him play again this weekend.