The Surrey Eagles are still searching for their first win of the young BC Hockey League season, after going winless on a three-game Vancouver Island road trip last weekend.
The Birds – who are 0-4 through the first two weeks of the schedule – lost 3-1 Friday to the Victoria Grizzlies, and fell by identical 3-2 scores on both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, against the Nanaimo Clippers and Powell River Kings, respectively.
But despite not returning home with any points, Eagles’ coach Blaine Neufeld was still largely encouraged by what he saw.
The Eagles outshot their opponents in each of the first two games – and against Victoria, by nearly double – and on Sunday, Powell River’s game-winning goal was a controversial one, with members of the Eagles insisting that the net was dislodged before the puck crossed the line.
“It didn’t feel like an 0-3 weekend, it really didn’t,” said Neufeld.
“They were all close games, and we felt we dominated the play for a lot of it, but you want to get rewarded, for sure.
“Now we’ll just re-assess, maybe move some guys around the lineup and hopefully that will (lead to success).”
Though the team’s defensive play was far better than it was in the first game of the year – in which they gave up eight goals to Coquitlam – Neufeld hopes a roster shuffle will shake loose a few extra goals, which would go a long to getting the team into the win column.
“We didn’t get the goal production this weekend that we thought we would,” he said. “So we’ll make a few tweaks.”
The Sunday afternoon tilt in Powell River – Surrey’s third game in less than three days – was perhaps the closest of the weekend, as the game was knotted at 2-2 until Gavin Rauser scored the game-winner for the home side 4:58 into the third period.
As was the case in the Eagles’ home-opener two weekends back, forward Logan Mostat was the offensive leader for Surrey, scoring twice. Captain Paul McAvoy added a pair of assists.
One scary moment Sunday came in the second period, when second-year forward Jeff Stewart was hit from behind, and had to be helped off the ice by a trainer.
Neufeld said Monday that Stewart required seven stitches just above his eyebrow, but was otherwise OK.
“He was very uncomfortable for awhile there, but it looks like he’s going to be OK,” the coach said.
“It’s unfortunate – you never like to see things like that. It was a very dangerous hit.”
Powell River’s Josh Coblenz received a five-minute major penalty on the play.
On Saturday in Nanaimo, it was Mostat and Andrew Kemp who lit the lamp for the visitors. Mostat’s first-period marker briefly gave Surrey a 1-0 lead, while Kemp’s goal came near the end of the second period.
Goaltender Daniel Davidson played two of the three games on the trip, starting Friday in Victoria and Sunday in Powell River, with Marc Audet getting the Saturday night tilt versus the Clippers.
Now back on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, the Eagles will prepare for the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack – an annual event that will see every team in the league play twice over the course of four days.
Surrey plays Thursday against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, and Sunday against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
And while earning a win or two – thus staying out of the basement of the Mainland Division – is of paramount importance for the Eagles, Neufeld said success in Chilliwack would go a long way in rebuilding the team’s image as a successful squad after two straight unsuccessful seasons.
“Everyone from all the teams is going to be there – coaches and managers – so we want to make a statement to the league that we’re a team that can win,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for the guys to earn a little respect, so we’re using that as motivation.”