LMHA alumni part of steamrolling Express

The Coquitlam Express’s storybook run through the B.C. Hockey League playoffs has a Langley chapter included in it.

Express forwards Daniell Lange and Brendan Lamont along with defenceman Anthony Gardner all hail from Langley and played their minor hockey in the community.

As well, brothers Bo and Canon Pieper lived in Langley during the season.

Express head coach Barry Wolff said Lange and Lamont helped push the Express to the top of the playoff mountain.

“[Lange] played a fourth-line role but there were times with injuries and suspensions where he played a big role in our success,” Wolff said. “Next year we expect him to be one of our go-to guys on a regular basis.”

Wolff compared Lamont’s style of play to that of Boston Bruins superpest Brad Marchand. And like Marchand has in past NHL playoffs with the Bruins, Lamont has elevated his play in the post-season.

“He’s been unreal,” Wolff said, regarding Lamont. “He’s an energy guy who always brings grit and determination.”

Lamont, 19, has scored twice and added five helpers in 19 post-season games.

Gardner, an 18-year-old rookie defenceman, was scoreless in two playoff appearances with the Express (both against the Langley Rivermen) during their run to the Fred Page Cup.

Gardner was the Express’s seventh defenceman most of the campaign, but as the  Express’s only returning blueliner next season, will take on a more prominent role in the future.  

“He should be [among the Express’s] top-four [defenceman next year] for sure, for us,” Wolff said.

After a so-so regular season, one that saw them finish just above .500 with a 27-26-2-3 record to slot in third in the BCHL’s Mainland Division, the Express found their stride in a big way during the post-season.

It all started with a six-game victory over the Prince George Spruce Kings in their best-of-seven, opening round series.

The upsets kept coming, including a six-game stunner over the BCHL regular season champion Rivermen, who rolled to a league-best 37-13-3-5 record before dispatching the Surrey Eagles in the first round.

The Express jumped out to a two-games-to-none series lead on the ’Men before battling to another four-games-to-two victory.

After emerging from a round robin semifinal tournament involving the Victoria Grizzlies and Vernon Vipers, the Express faced off against the Vipers for the Fred Page Cup (BCHL playoff championship).

The Express pulled off yet another stunner by sweeping the Vipers in four games in their best-of-seven series in Vernon to complete a storybook playoffs.

Two of the games went into overtime, with the Express winning game two 4-3 and game three 3-2.

In the series clincher, the Express overcame a 3-2, third period deficit to edge the Vipers 4-3.

The Coquitlam juniors are now taking a much-needed break before travelling to Dauphin, Man. and the  Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup.

The top two teams qualify for the RBC Cup, hosted May 10-18 by the Vipers.

For Lange, this spring feels like deja vu.

Last season, the 5’11” 180-pound right winger played for a Richmond Sockeyes junior B team that won the Pacific Junior Hockey League title, Cyclone Taylor Cup B.C. championship, and finally, the Keystone Cup Western Canadian title.

His junior B travels last spring took him to Courtenay (Cyclone Taylor Cup) and St. Malo, Man. (Keystone Cup).

Now, he’s part of an Express team that has steamrolled through the BCHL post-season.

All the while, Lange, an 18-year-old rookie, has adapted to taking on a different role than he had last year with the Sockeyes.  

After leading all PJHL goal-scorers with 34 markers during the 2012/13 regular season, Lange is a fourth-line energy-type player with the Express.

Lange’s playoff numbers are sparse, with two assists to his credit, but he has played a full 19 games with Coquitlam.

“I’m just playing a typical fourth-line role, just go out there and get the boys going with energy and all that kind of stuff,” Lange said. “I’ve enjoyed all of it. It’s a lot different than what we did before in Richmond, but overall, it’s worth it.”

He added that a team concept has powered the Express through the post-season.

“Everybody from the top to bottom picked up their game, and everybody has played the best they could,” he said.

He added that the Express’s last line of defence, goaltender Gordie Defiel, has put up a wall in the Coquitlam net.

Defiel has started all 19 games for the Express, racking up a 14-5 record with a 2.69 goals against average and one shutout, posted against Prince George in the first round.

On a personal level, Lange said his experience with the Sockeyes helped prepare him for the rigours of playoff hockey.

“It helped me with the mental aspect of it,” Lange said.

“I know how long and hard the playoff run is. Playoffs are a lot more fun than the regular season; there’s a lot more to battle for.”

Lange said each of the Express’s playoff opponents have brought difference challenges to the table.

“Every team has been totally different,” he said. “We just had to adjust to the playing style and we came out on top after that.”

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