The Penticton Vees 10-game winning streak is over and so are their chances of finishing first overall in the B.C. Hockey League.
Greg Lapointe scored early in the third period and the Coquitlam Express clinched first overall with a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Vees in front of 3,308 fans Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Adam Trotman and Cooper Connell added power play goals as the Express (44-8-1-1) moved six points ahead of the Vees with Penticton having only three games left and Coquitlam holding the tiebreaker.
Lukas Sillinger and Jay O’Brien scored for the Vees (41-12-1-1), who clinched their ninth straight Interior pennant last weekend.
Clay Stevenson made 41 saves for the Express while Yaniv Perets turned aside 27 shots for the Vees.
Former Vees captain Massimo Rizzo returned to Penticton for the first time with the Express since being traded in the off-season and was held off the scoresheet.
The Vees had the better of the play early but the Express got a pair of power plays and scored on the second one. Josh Wildauer slid the puck from the right circle in front to Trotman to shovel into the open side at 9:18.
Sillinger tied it on the rush just 1:41 later, working a nifty give-and-go with Jackson Niedermayer before hoisting a shot over Stevenson’s glove and just under the bar. Captain David Silye tallied his 40th assist as Sillinger became the fifth Vees player to reach the 20-goal plateau.
The Vees forged ahead on a power play at 5:23 of the second as O’Brien laced a one-timer from the left circle over Stevenson’s glove with Liam Malmquist and Danny Weight assisting.
Coquitlam got on the power play again soon after and Connell tied the game on a rebound from a scramble in front of Perets at 8:07. Wildauer earned his second helper of the game.
The Vees dominated the remainder of the period after that, outshooting the visitors 23-10, but Stevenson was stellar to keep it 2-2.
Penticton blinked first in the third period and couldn’t recover.
Lapointe got the go-ahead goal at 2:59 after the Vees got caught on a bad line change. Wyatt Head sprung Lapointe on a breakaway and Coquitlam’s top scorer beat Perets on a slick deke before slipping a backhander into the open side.
The Vees had a handful of chances to tie the game and got Perets to the bench for an extra attacker with 1:22 to go, but the Express held on.
Stevenson, Lapointe and Sillinger were the three stars.
The Vees will look to regroup as they take on the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Saturday at 6 p.m. at the SOEC.
Wild 5 Vipers 2: Ethan Wolthers scored twice and Sam Morton had a goal and two assists as Wenatchee topped visiting Vernon in a battle for fourth place in the Interior.
Noah Lugli and Dylan Herzog also scored for the Wild (28-22-3-1), who moved a point ahead of Vernon and edged within one point of third-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Dawson Holt had both goals for the Vipers (28-23-3-1), who trailed 2-0 and 4-1 at the period breaks and were outshot 37-29.
Vernon is back home to take on the West Kelowna Warriors Saturday at 6 p.m. and the Merritt Centennials on Family Day Monday at 2 p.m.
West Kelowna welcomes the Trail Smoke Eaters to Royal LePage Place Monday at 2:30 p.m.