HOCKEY: Surrey Eagles’ coach won’t lose hope over lost games

SOUTH SURREY — After a tough stretch of games to start 2015, Surrey Eagles head coach Blaine Neufeld is looking at the positives the team has shown.

The Eagles have lost the first five games to start the new year, but Neufeld is optimistic because most of them have been close games against tough teams.

The coach said one or two bounces against his team have taken points away from the Eagles.

“The games after that have been one-and-two-goal games. We’ve outplayed a lot of teams at times, and other teams have given us what we can handle and it’s one or two bounces,” Neufeld said.

“We’ve been in both of the last two games against good teams. The Interior Division is a really good, solid division. We’re never accepting to lose, but we put up good a effort.”

On Sunday (Jan. 11), the team lost 5-3 against Vernon Vipers, one of the strongest teams in the BCHL.

Down 4-2 after two periods, the Eagles scored their third goal with nine minutes remaining, thanks to an unassisted goal from Jordan Funk.

However, the Vipers sealed the win thanks to a power-play marker from Thomas Aldworth with less than five minutes remaining.

On Friday (Jan. 9), the Eagles lost another tight game, this time 5-4 to Merritt Centennials.

The team was down 5-2 heading into the final period, but Latrell Charleson scored a pair of late goals to make for a frantic finish.

The Eagles ended 2014 with a pair of wins over local rivals Chilliwack and Neufeld, a former Vancouver Giants goalie, said it was great for the team to get a minor positive despite the team’s tough start to the year.

“It’s very nice to be a part of some success, especially for the younger guys, that we build for the future, to get the taste of success.

“We knew it was going to be a rebuilding process that we wanted to go through. We’ve got patience,” he added.

Neufeld said now that he has some experience coaching at the BCHL level, he has a better idea of what will come next season.

“We have the opportunity now to contract some kids that we’ve been watching for a full year,” the coach added. “We’re getting to know what kids are all about and which kids are fully competitive to buying in to what we’re preaching all the way through.”

Of the current roster, 28 of 36 players are from the Lower Mainland. Neufeld said he is looking to bring in some new players for next season, as long as they bring the right attitude to the team.

“I think it’s a combination. You need to have kids that complement each other,” he said.

“We’re looking to give local kids opportunities and if those local kids are the kids (who) bring those attributes … then absolutely they’re going to get that opportunity, but it’s a big world out there and there are a lot of hockey players. This is a good hockey market, and a very attractive place to come,” he said.

Leading scorer Darius Davidson, 18, said he’s happy with his level of performances this season.

“Personally, it’s been going pretty good,” Davidson said. “We had a tough start, but we’re keeping on going.”

He is averaging under a point a game, and is getting interest from several American universities for an athletic scholarship.

The Eagles’ next game is at home on Friday, Jan. 16 against the Mainland Division-leading Langley Rivermen.

kyle.benning@gmail.com

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