Surrey Eagles forward Adamo Santia tries to sneak the puck past Coquitlam Express goalie Clay Stevenson during a game Friday at South Surrey Arena. Coquitlam won the game 3-0 thanks to a 39-save performance from Stevenson. (Garrett James photo)

Hot start to BCHL season ‘a huge positive’ for Surrey Eagles

Team stymied by hot Coquitlam Express goalie in home opener

Running into a red-hot goaltender in their home-opening game Friday at South Surrey Arena wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of Surrey Eagles head coach Cam Keith.

Keith, who is in his first season at the helm of the BC Hockey League junior ‘A’ club, has led the Birds to a 2-1 (win-loss) start through the first two weekends of the schedule. The team opened with a pair of victories on the road in Prince George two weekends ago, and on Friday fell 3-0 to the visiting Coquitlam Express, who rode a 39-save performance from netminder Clay Stevenson to victory.

Despite the goose egg on the scoreboard, the Eagles played a strong game, Keith said, and if the first three games are taken together, the start is “a huge positive” for the club, as it aims to regain a footing in the Mainland Division after last year’s last-place finish.

“Honestly, (Friday) still went the way I wanted it to. The kids came out and played hard, entertained the fans and made plays. We just ran into a hot goaltender,” Keith said.

“Coquitlam has a really good team, but it’s a game that could’ve gone either way if we woud’ve been able to finish our chances. Chances for, chances against, it was pretty even. All you can really ask for as a coach is that the guys play as hard as they can and try to create opportunities.”

The Coquitlam goalie was playing his first game since the passing of his mother a week earlier.

• READ ALSO: Surrey Eagles open BCHL season with pair of road wins

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While Stevenson stole the show at one end of the ice, Surrey’s Thomas Scarfone was no slouch in the home team’s net, either, making 33 stops in his second appearance of the season.

With two wins in their first three games, the Eagles are off to a much faster start than last season, which saw the team lose its first five games and seven of the first nine.

Keith was thrilled his team was able to take all four points of their opening weekend road trip in Prince George earlier this month, too. The team won the first game in regulation time, but the second one was decided in overtime, on a goal from Holden Katzalay.

“Our goal going in was to split, and get two points out of a very tough place to play, especially with a new group, with so many rookies who haven’t experienced what it’s like playing in Prince George,” Keith explained.

“It’s a small ice (surface) and a very tough environment. Imagine a team that’s got a lot of new players and has been practising on Olympic (sized) ice… then you go into PG and it’s a shoe box, comparatively.

“But the kids were great. They played tough games and got out of there with four points, so it was a great way to start the year.”

Keith cautioned against reading too much into his team’s hot start, but was optimistic nonetheless.

“I’m taking it with a grain of salt. It’s very hard to tell exactly where you’re at at the start of the year because teams are still not dialed into their systems and games are still a little bit scrambly,” he said.

“But I can tell that this is a team that’s not going to be embarrassed this year. It’s going to be a team that’s competitive. How competitive it is, it’s too early to tell. But it’s a good hockey team.”

The Eagles will have another opportunity this week to put their new ‘road warrior’ status to the test. On Tuesday, they head to Port Alberni for a game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, and on Wednesday they’ll hit the ice against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Surrey will be back on home ice this weekend, for a Sunday game against the Langley Rivermen. Puck drop is 4 p.m.



sports@peacearchnews.com

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