by Eddie Gregory |
Clay Stevenson made a regular season career high 49 saves to truly earn his 18th straight win as the Express extended their winning streak to 16 games with a 5-4 win over the Vernon Vipers. Click here for boxscore .
Early indications were that this would be a busy night for the Express goaltender. The Vipers were creating quality chances by getting to the dangerous areas of the ice.
Former Express Landon Fuller got behind the Express defence and from in tight slid the puck under Stevenson to open the scoring for the Vipers.
The visitors were without the services of forwards Massimo Rizzo and Will Margel due to illness. But defenceman Joey Berkopec made his Express debut Saturday. He was acquired earlier in the day from the Merritt Centennials in exchange for future considerations.
— Coquitlam Express Jr. A Hockey Club (@BCHLExpress) January 4, 2020
Christian MacDougall scored a powerplay goal in the dying seconds of the first period to tie the game at 1 despite the Express being outshot 15-6 in the first period.
Cooper Connell took advantage of a miscue in the opening minute of the second period and scored on a breakaway tucking the puck past Rielly Herbst giving the Express their first lead of the night.
Just under two minutes later Greg Lapointe ripped a wicked wrist shot home for his team leading 23rd of the season extending the Express lead to 3-1.
With a two goal lead in hand the Express let Clay Stevenson try to handle it the rest of the way. But for as good as Clay Stevenson has been, he can only do so much to hold off mistakes in front of him. The 2nd period he was peppered with 19 Vernon shots turning aside 17 of them.
Vernon’s two goals came when Jojo Tanaka-Campbell burst into the Express zone with speed and got past the Express defence then tucked in just his second of the season.
Then with a minute to go in the second period an Express turnover in their zone quickly ended up in their net on a goal by Dawson Holt who was able to barely get the puck over the goal line past Clay Stevenson for a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes.
One thing we’ve learned over the course of this winning streak for the Express, is they find ways to dig deep and battle with what they have despite not being at their best. And with key bodies out of the lineup. Saturday’s game was the most notable example of that.
Clay Stevenson stood tall again in the third period as the Vipers sent another 19 shots his way. His play kept the belief alive for the Express that they could pull this one out.
A seeing eye shot by Adam Trotman was tipped by Tyler Schleppe with just over 6 minutes to play put the Express in the a 4-3 lead.
But this game wasn’t going to end without some final drama. A Vipers won face-off deep in the Express zone resulted in Landon Fuller snapping home his second of the night with 2:45 to play to make it a 4-4 game.
Then the Express big man Ethan O’Rourke who may be a candidate for unsung hero, put the Express in the lead for good with his 13th of the season just 55 seconds later.
Stevenson held on the rest of the way to secure the 35th win of the season. His 49 saves surpasses the 46 he made in February of 2018 which was his previous regular season best total.
The three game island division road trip concludes Sunday afternoon in Salmon Arm.