There will be no playoff beards this year for the Coquitlam Express.
The B.C. Hockey League squad saw its last ditch chase for the final playoff berth in the Mainland Division end Sunday with a 5-4 loss to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the Poirier Sports Centre.
Coquitlam saw a 4-1 lead evaporate under a strong march by the Silverbacks, who scored the game winner with just 23 seconds left in regulation.
In the end, Coquitlam would have been eliminated when Langley topped Prince George on Sunday.
"It was definitely deflating. We knew we had to win that game but (Salmon Arm) had a lot of momentum in the third period," said goalie Cole Huggins. "We kind of felt crushed after the game. Maybe a couple of those goals I should have had, but it just seemed like they were pushing it right to the end."
The Express built up a 3-0 lead on goals by Justin Georgeson, Marc Biega and Brandon Morley in the first period, before Salmon Arm put one on the board with 10 seconds left in the first.
Georgeson cashed in a powerplay tally four minutes into the second to restore the three-goal lead. The Silverbacks replied with a powerplay goal of their own, then made it 4-3 with 1: 19 remaining in the middle frame.
Midway through the third, Salmon Arm tied it, with Steven Iacobellis capping the comeback with 23 seconds left.
The Express, who had blasted Cowichan Valley 7-2 on Friday, had won five of its past six games before Sunday. That stretch demonstrated how well the players had bonded since the Jan. 10 trade deadline, Huggins said.
"It's been a pretty good run, obviously winning makes things easier," he said. "I think a lot of the guys bought into what we were trying to do, but we just fell short."
The Express close out the season with a pair of games against Surrey, including Friday's contest (7 p.m. at the Poirier Sports Centre) that begins with a Terry Fox Foundation Awareness event, featuring pre-game burgers from Mr. Mike's.
Coquitlam, who sit last with a 23-301 record, end the season Saturday in Surrey.