Eagles earn tie Sunday to end busy week

More roster moves for South Surrey BC Hockey League squad

After two straight losses to the Coquitlam Express, the Surrey Eagles ended the weekend on something of a high note, managing a single point after battling the Langley Rivermen to a 3-3 tie Sunday at South Surrey Arena.

On Friday on home ice, the struggling BC Hockey League team scored first but gave up five unanswered goals to the Express en route to a 5-1 loss. In Saturday’s rematch – played at Coquitlam’s Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre – Surrey also gave up five goals, losing 5-2.

The Peninsula crew salvaged a point from the weekend, however, by tying the Rivermen in front of more than 980 fans, according to the Eagles’ official count. The game was dubbed Star Wars Night, and young fans were able to have their photos taken with characters from the popular film series; the promotion also served as a food-bank fundraiser.

And the force was with the home team during the late-afternoon tilt, as the Eagles played arguable their best game of the weekend against their Langley rivals, who are 42 points above them in the BCHL’s Mainland Division standings.

Langley’s Max Kaufman opened the scoring midway through the first period, but Surrey’s Matthew Hermary knotted the scored at 1-1 with a goal seven minutes later.

Each team scored twice in a busy middle frame – Gage Mackie and Brett Stewart lit the lamp for the Birds – and neither team managed a goal in the third period.

Likewise, two overtime periods – one at 4-on-4 and a second at 3-on-3 – solved nothing, leaving the two teams with one point apiece.

Surrey goaltender Justin LaForest was largely responsible for keeping the Rivermen offence at bay, stopping 48 of 51 shots, including nine in overtime.

LaForest was also between the pipes Saturday, stopping 33 Coquitlam shots, while Jeffrey Stewart and Donovan Ott provided the offence.

On Friday, Surrey got on the board first when Kurt Black beat Express netminder Tyger Howat 5:58 into the first period, but Coquitlam had the momentum the rest of the game, scoring twice later in the first period, once more in the second and twice in the third to win 5-1.

Surrey still sits in the basement of the Mainland Division with 22 points, with a record of 5-27-1-0 (win-loss-tie-overtime loss).

It’s been a whirlwind week for the Eagles off the ice as well, as the team made another flurry of roster moves in advance of their weekend schedule.

The team traded veteran defenceman Owen Johnson to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in exchange for fellow blue-liner Tyler Cooper; lost 17-year-old forward Ty Westgard – son of team president Chuck Westgard – to the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals and signed two members of the Junior ‘B’ Kamloops Storm, Hunter Kero and Rob Johnson, to the active roster.

The biggest surprise amid the flurry of moves was the departure of Westgard, who in addition to having a family connection to the team, is a highly regarded forward who had been listed among the BCHL’s top prospects by NHL Central Scouting.

The six-foot, 180-pound forward – who was a bantam-draft selection of the Royals back in 2013 – had 21 points in 24 games with the Eagles this season.

“It has always been a dream of Ty’s to play in the WHL. We had a thought in our minds that he would be playing there at the start of next year after graduating (high school), but the opportunity came now and he felt that it was the right decision at this time,” said Chuck Westgard in a news release.

The younger Westgard is the third Eagles’ player to leave for the WHL ranks this season.

Earlier this month, captain John Wesley joined the Vancouver Giants, and defenceman Ryan Jones – originally cut from the Giants earlier in the year – returned to the team recently as well.

Regarding the team’s acquisition of Cooper and the pair of players from the Kamloops Storm, Surrey head coach Blaine Neufeld said the moves “have sped up our rebuild.”

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