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Coquitlam Express hope coaching change will spark team to playoff success

Assistant coach Jeff Wagner has been named the interim bench boss of the Coquitlam Express.
Jeff Wagner, the new interim head coach of the Coquitlam Express, presents the fan favourite award to Cale Colwell following the team's 4-0 loss to the Victoria Grizzlies Sunday to close out the regular season. Wagner was elevated from assistant coach after head coach Patrick Sexton was dismissed on Monday.

A dismal home stretch for the Coquitlam Express turned into the final stretch for head coach Patrick Sexton.

The BC Hockey League (BCHL) team relieved its bench boss of the past three years just days before the start of the playoffs after it won just once since Feb. 24 and had a record of seven wins and 23 losses since the Christmas break.

Assistant coach Jeff Wagner will guide the Express into its first round series against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs as the team’s interim head coach. The best-of-seven series begins Friday, April 5, in Port Alberni.

Prior to coming to Coquitlam in 2021, Wagner was the head coach and general manager of the Fernie Ghostriders in the Kootenday International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).

Express general manager Tali Campbell said while it wasn’t an easy decision to make a change just before the playoffs, something needed to be done to light a spark in the team.

“Every single person in the organization bears responsibility of this decision,” Campbell said. “There’s always a fall guy and this time it’s Patrick Sexton.”

Campbell said stumbling into the postseason after the Express won 14 of its 25 games prior to the Christmas break hasn’t diminished his belief in the quality of his team. That’s why it was imperative something be changed.

“If this team was done, there would be no point in making this decision,” he said. “I couldn’t stomach that.”

Coquitlam closed out its regular season schedule with a pair of losses to the Victoria Grizzlies, 5-4 on Saturday, March 30, and 4-0 on Sunday, March 31.

Campbell said heading into the series against Alberni Valley, he expects accountability on and off the ice.

“We all have to look in the mirror and dig deep for our identity,” he said. “We have to send the message that if things don’t get done, things will get changed.”

The Express split its season series against the Bulldogs. The teams last faced each other on Jan. 5, a 5-3 win for Alberni Valley.

After Friday’s series opener, Game Two goes Saturday, April 6, at 7 p.m. in Port Alberni.

Games three and four will be played Tuesday, April 9 and Wednesday, April 10, at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex. Game time for each is 7 p.m.