As a preamble to Halloween, the Coquitlam Express may need to rent some of those ‘Zombie Hotdog’ costumes to put the mustard back in their game.
For a club that had established one of the quickest, up-tempo and dangerous attacks over the first 15 games of the 2013-14 B.C. Hockey League season, Coquitlam showed little flash and even less pushback when it mattered in getting outscored 20-8 over three consecutive losses.
Sunday’s 4-3 setback to the Chilliwack Chiefs at the Poirier Sports Centre added salt to a burning wound that is their 1-6-0-2 home ice record, and came on the heels of a 4-3 loss Friday to West Kelowna.
Coquitlam was unceremoniously spanked 12-2 in Langley on Thursday to start the weekend slide.
In both home defeats, the Express held the lead and were in control until the virtual wheels fell off.
West Kelowna erased a 2-0 deficit and jumped ahead only to see the Express pull even with 2:42 left on Bo Pieper’s 10th goal of the year. But the Warriors’ Reid Simmonds capped a two-goal game by netting the game winner with 22 seconds left to steal it for the visitors.
On Sunday, Coquitlam blew a 3-1 lead with a shaky third frame, despite having held a decisive edge in shots and puck possession over the first 40 minutes.
“It was a tough one to lose, that’s for sure,” head coach Barry Wolff said of Sunday’s decision. “We out-worked them and out-chanced them during much of the game but [we] just seemed to lose confidence in the third, and a soft goal kind of took the air out of us.”
The Chiefs, who had averaged just two goals over the first 15 games, shook off a tepid start and netted the final three tallies after being outshot 37-14 over the first 40 minutes.
Ben Butcher’s marker with 10 minutes left stood up as the winner, but Coquitlam’s sudden lack of finish and woeful 0-for-6 effort with the man advantage likely haunted the coaching staff as they head into November.
Corey Mackin, Jace Hennig and Joey Santucci supplied the offence, while the game’s first star, Chilliwack netminder Lyndon Stanwood, kicked out 49 shots to earn the Chiefs their second-straight victory.
On Friday, Canon Pieper and Zach Hodder, with the weekend’s lone powerplay mark, gave Coquitlam a 2-0 lead during the first 30 minutes.
Hodder, a defenceman who returned to the squad recently after spending the past season in the Western Hockey League, has bolstered the blueline and the powerplay, said Wolff.
However Wolff said the club still has work to do and the lack of success with the extra man, which is successful just 16.25 per cent of the time, needs to improve.
“We did have some success when (Hodder) first got here but for whatever reason we’ve slipped into some bad habits. The boys are looking to make that perfect play and are not getting the shots on [net].
“When you have a skilled team that’s something that happens, they’re always looking to pass, pass and forget that you’ve got to shoot and get in to the dirty areas for some of those goals.”
Coquitlam played Sunday without team scoring leader Adam Rockwood, who is attending the Canada West tryout camp in Calgary. If he makes the squad, he’ll head to Nova Scotia to compete at the World Junior Challenge.
Wolff said the club will hit the ice this week aiming to iron out the wrinkles in its game.
“We’re going back to basics and work heavily on our systems,” he said. “We’re still seeing breakdowns that shouldn’t be happening at this stage.”
Coquitlam will look to get back on track Friday when it hosts the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, 7 p.m. at the Poirier Sports Centre.
As part of a league-wide project, the Express’ game will be Five Hole for Food Challenge night, where the public is encouraged to bring donations of food for the local foodbank.
In the first three stages of the event, which featured stops in Nanaimo, Langley and Prince George, the project has raised 3,632-pounds of goods — averaging over 1,210-pounds per team.
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