Darius Davidson scored 38 seconds into four-on-four overtime as the Surrey Eagles shaded the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in B.C. Hockey League action Friday night before 1,855 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Davidson, 20, deftly tipped a point shot by defenceman Nick Minerva past Vernon goalie Cole Demers as Surrey won their second game of the season. Paul McAvoy drew the secondary assist.
Davidson, in his fourth year with the Eagles, smiled when asked if he works on deflections in practice.
“Sometimes,” said the towering forward. “I guess I kind of got lucky at the end but it goes in.”
Davidson, named first star, forced the extra session by levelling the score 2-2 at 9:25 of the third period when Desi Burgart Riverdanced through a few Vipers from the blueline in and fed Davidson for his sixth snipe of the season. Second star Ashton Calder also earned an assist.
Surrey (2-6-1) opened the scoring at 13:20 of the second period when Calder deflected a point shot by Demers. D-man Cole Williams and Jeffrey Stewart pocketed helpers.
The Vipers (5-3-2) equalized four minutes later when Hunter Zandee buried his second of the season from the far left sidewall. Steven Jandric and third star Brett Stapley collected assists.
Vernon went in front midway through the third period when blueliner Mitchell Oliver picked up a wild rebound off the back boards and hit an empty net from 25 feet after Eagle goalie Michael Botiz fell in his crease. Dario Piva of the Eagles had 36 seconds left in a minor for high sticking Christian Cakebread in the face. Captain Rlley Brandt and Stapley counted assists.
Vernon outshot Surrey 42-31 in regulation with Botiz – an Oakville, Ont. product recently acquired by the Birds – brilliant most of the night. He recorded a huge sprawling leg save off former WHL Austin Adamson on a first-period power play and stopped a rocket by d-man Carter Stephenson from the left hashmarks with eights second left in the opening 20.
“It was a good overall effort for the guys,” said Davidson, who finished last season with the Penticton Vees. “Our goalie played big and made a couple of huge saves and we figured out a way to get it done in the end. It was a good road win.”
Vernon visits the defending Royal Bank Cup champion West Kelowna Warriors Saturday night, while Surrey takes on the Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm. The Silverbacks upended the host Warriors 5-3 before 785 fans at Royal LePage Place Friday night.
Davidson said the Eagles have lost a few tough one-goal games and with five players carrying NCAA Division 1 scholarships, he believes they won’t be in the Mainland Division cellar for much longer.
“Obviously, this is a big boost for our morale. Now we have to start getting a few more wins and keep it rolling. If we put in a good effort in Salmon Arm, we’ll stand our ground against them. We have a good team here. I think we’ll be one of the top teams in the league this year.”
Hardest check of the night was tossed by Stephenson on Nicholas Fea near the left sidewall in the Surrey zone midway through the middle frame.
Vernon pressed hard for the winner as they enjoyed a man advantage when Jordan Robert was whistled for slashing with 4:48 remaining. Stephenson wired a heavy shot from the left point which got through Botiz but didn’t cross the goal-line. Brandt had a decent chance on the same powerplay, while Adamson had a good look with seven seconds left.
Said Brandt: “It comes down to a full 60 minutes. We had a good game and a good effort but a couple of breakdowns and we gotta capitalize on some of those scoring opportunities. He (Botiz) had a good game; he stood on his head for those guys. Our goalie played well too; it’s a tough bounce. I’m sure our guys are gonna regroup from tonight and be ready for tomorrow night.”
The Vees grounded the Merritt Centennials 5-1 before 2,860 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Penticton leads the league at 8-1.