Through the first month of the BC Hockey League season, consistency has been a problem for the Surrey Eagles.
The team started slow – they were the last team in the junior ‘A’ loop to get a win – but slowly picked up steam in the midst of a flurry of roster moves designed to get new head coach Peter Schaefer a team more suited to his style.
Since then, the team has been in ‘win one, lose two’ mode, where the squad performs well one day, only to follow up by, in the words of Schaefer earlier this month, reverting “right back to our old ways.”
“Just making too many little mistakes, turning over too many pucks,” the coach told Peace Arch News three weeks ago, after the team had seen its win-loss record drop to 2-7.
That up-and-down trend continued last week, as the Birds won a thrilling 6-5 overtime game on the road in Vernon Wednesday, only to return back to the Lower Mainland and lose a pair of games to division rivals – 5-0 to the Langley Rivermen Friday at the George Preston Recreation Centre, and 3-2 to the Chilliwack Chiefs, also on the road.
The Eagles still sit in the basement of the BCHL’s Mainland Division with a 4-11 win-loss mark, six points back of the fourth-place Rivermen.
There was no shortage of offence – from either team – in Vernon last Wednesday, but the Eagles required a late-game comeback plus some OT heroics in order to escape with two points.
The game was tied 1-1 after the opening 20 minutes – Vipers’ Michael Young and Surrey’s Max Mohagen traded goals – but Vernon held a slim 3-2 lead after two periods; Austin Herron scored for Surrey.
The third period was where the action was, as the visitors tied the game just shy of the midway point on a goal from rookie Matthew McKim – his first of the season and his BCHL career – and less than two minutes later, captain Ty Westgard gave Surrey the lead with a power-play tally.
Vernon responded quickly, however, scoring two goals in less than five minutes near the end of the game, and led 5-4 with just 1:07 remaining in the game.
However, with just 15 seconds left, forward Holden Katzalay – one of the team’s new acquisitions – tipped home a point shot from defenceman Riley Hayles to tie the game 5-5.
HIGHLIGHT: Riley Hayles didn't just score tonight's winner, he set up the game-tying goal with only 15.9 remaining in the third period! @HoldenKatzalay with the tip in front! pic.twitter.com/D9Q6b1re7y
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) October 11, 2018
Then, in the extra three-on-three overtime session, it was Hayles’ turn to play the role of hero. After the Eagles gained the zone, the trio of Hayles, Chase Stevenson and Justyn Gurney moved the puck around to set up a shot from Hayles, whose slapshot from just inside the blue line found its way past Vipers’ netminder Aidan Porter.
The win was the first of the season for the Eagles’ newest goalie, Kyle Dumba, who was acquired prior to last week’s game in a three-team deal that saw forward Eric Linell shipped out. Dumba stopped 38 of 43 in the win.
Surrey is currently carrying three goalies on its roster, with Daniel Davidson and Cayden Bailey joining Dumba in the crowded crease. Dumba got the start against Langley Friday, too, stopping 34 shots, and Davidson played in Saturday’s loss to Chilliwack, making 36 saves. Bailey – an 18-year-old New York native – did not dress in any of the three contests.
As opposed to the midweek offensive explosion seen in Vernon, the Eagles had nothing to show for Friday’s tilt, in which they failed to score on Rivermen goalie Braedon Fleming. They rarely tested the goalkeeper, managing just 21 total shots on goal in the loss.
Surrey was badly outshot Saturday night too, as the Chiefs fired 39 pucks at Davidson, compared to just 24 by the Eagles. However, despite the shots-on-goal disadvantage, the game was still close.
The Chiefs opened the scoring 11:44 into the first period on a goal from Harrison Blaisdell, but Stevenson – with an assist to Westgard – tied the game early in the second frame, and the game remained tied until the third, when Gurney gave the Eagles the lead.
Gurney has three goals and three assists in six games since joining the team from the Western Hockey League, and Westgard is currently second in league scoring, with 21 points in 15 games.
The Eagles are back on the road this weekend, with three games set for Vancouver Island. On Friday, they’ll square off against the Nanaimo Clippers; on Saturday, they play in Cowichan, and then the busy weekend is capped with a 2 p.m. Sunday tilt in Victoria against the Grizzlies.
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