Warriors derail Express

Mike Hardman scored twice and Connor Hopkins came up big when he had to Tuesday as the West Kelowna Warriors doubled up on the visiting Coquitlam Express.

Hardman's second goal of the game early in the third gave the Warriors the two goal cushion they so desperately sought after taking one goal leads on three different occasions.

The insurance goal wasn't a classic, as he found himself in the right place at the right time at the edge of the crease after Austin Chorney's point shot hit the glass behind the net and bounced right to Hardman.

"Goal scorers find a way and just seem to be in the right spot and get their stick on things that other guys can't," said head coach Geoff Grimwood.

"He's been from wire-to-wire our best finisher. He puts himself in a position to get chances, and he cashes in."

The teams split four first period goals - a period in which the Warriors gave the Express too much space in the defensive zone, but, for the most part, they were bailed out by Connor Hopkins who was called on to make several key stops.

Hardman got his first of the night and 23rd on the campaign seven minutes in when he put away a one-timer off a backdoor pass on the power play.

After a defensive breakdown allowed the Express to tie it, Lucas Cullen scored the pretties goal of the night, his 17th of the season.

Parm Dhaliwal started the play when he chipped the puck out towards center ice. Chase Dubois tapped it to Cullen who broke in all alone  off the left wing and beat Clay Stevenson.

Coquitlam tied it again later in the period on their first power play of the night.

"They're a really good team Coquitlam, they're very dangerous.

"I thought we started well, but in the second half of the first they really pushed and I thought they could have got one or two, but we kind of bent but didn't break. It wasn't our tidiest effort, but a win is a win...we'll take it."

Brandon Dent tapped home the eventual game winner midway through the middle frame off a nifty pass out of the corner from Mason Richey."

The Express had a glorious chance to tie it shorthanded late in the middle frame.

Jared Power broke free on a two-on-one break. He held the puck, deked, went behind the goal line and tried to tuck the puck behind Hopkins, who somehow managed to reach back with his stick and deny the chance.

He made a couple of key saves late with the Express on another power play and Stevenson on the bench for a sixth attacker.

Hopkins, the game's first star, turned away 32 of the 34 shots he faced.

Prior to the game, the Warriors announced defenceman Kyle Koopman had left the club.

He will be joining the collegiate Providence Friars for the balance of the season. Koopman had agreed to a scholarship with the U.S. university.

“The loss of Kyle Koopman will not only be felt on the ice but in the dressing room as well,” said Grimwood,

“It hurts our team right now but this league is about progressing these men on to the next level. We believe Kyle is more than ready for college hockey right now and we want to wish him the best of luck in Providence.”

The Warriors, winners of two in a row, return to the ice Friday when they host the Merritt Centennials. The Warriors have dropped all three meetings to Merritt this season.

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