COQUITLAM — Four out of six was what they hoped for.
Adding to the injured list wasn’t.
Despite missing three top players due to the World Junior A Hockey Challenge and another three to injuries, the Coquitlam Express continue to impress away from home, winning two of three games against Island Division rivals.
John Siemer capped the trip Sunday with 15 seconds left in regulation to lift the visitors past the Cowichan Valley Capitals 4-3.
His goal threw cold water on what had been an impressive rally by the home team, who erased a 3-0 deficit in the third period. Earlier goals by Luca Leone, Mitch Nardi and Adam Rockwood had given the Express a 3-0 lead entering the final frame.
Netminder Cole Huggins, who set the tone to start the trip with a 3-0 shutout in Powell River, turned aside 36 Capital shots.
Friday’s victory, where Huggins kicked out all 31 shots, also saw the club lose wingers Jace Hennig and Sam Majka to injury — giving them five players on the injured list.
“That really hurt us heading into Port Alberni,” said Coquitlam coach Jon Calvano. “We essentially lost Hennig and Majka in consecutive shifts in Powell River. The players in that game held it together, our affiliate (pick-up) players stepped up and we came away with two points.”
In Port Alberni, the team fell behind early and trailed 3-1 entering the third but put up a valiant charge to tie it.
Recent acquisition Philip Zielonka continued to take advantage of his offensive chances skating alongside Siemer and Justin Georgeson. The 19-year-old from Quebec scored two goals within a span of 51 seconds to make it 3-3. But the Bulldogs scrapped out a 5-3 victory, pelting rookie netminder Daniel Urbani with 48 shots. It was Coquitlam’s first loss in seven road games.
“It took us a while to get it together (in Port Alberni),” noted Calvano. “That line stepped up and got two quick goals to make a game of it, but we just didn’t have enough left.”
The trio accounted for six goals and eight assists over the three days — with both Siemer and Zielonka tallying three times.
Siemer’s line took on a huge role, with top-six forwards Alexander Kerfoot, Brandon Morley and Zach Pryzbek representing Canada West in Nova Scotia and Malcolm McKinney injured.
“Philip has been a great pickup. We knew what we were getting because we had scouted him before,” the coach said. “The three of them have developed good chemistry in a short time — it’s what elite players can do.”
The squad also continues to play without the services of top-four defencemen Jason Bird — injured in the first game of the season — and Marc Biega.
Affiliate players Eric Margo, who drew a pair of assists in the win over Cowichan, Kolten Grieve and Ryan Panichelli provided valuable depth with the bench stretched to the limits. The club will require more affiliate help this weekend as none of the injured are expected back, while Kerfoot, Morley and Pryzbek are on the east coast until Nov. 11.
“We’ve had good success on the road even despite missing a considerable part of our lineup,” Calvano said of the team’s 7-1 record away from Poirier. “In the end it shows the depth we have as a group. We’d be a very different team if we had our injured players back and the three from the Worlds.”
Coquitlam’s next test is Friday, 7 p.m. when Chilliwack visits the Poirier Sports Centre. They then head out for games in Langley on Saturday and Surrey on Monday.