The losses – and the injuries – continue to mount for the Surrey Eagles.
The struggling BC Hockey League team lost twice to the Coquitlam Express on the weekend – 6-4 Friday in Coquitlam and 10-5 Saturday in South Surrey – to bring their losing streak to seven games.
“We are in a bit of a rough patch here, no question,” said head coach Blaine Neufeld.
And to make matters worse, the young team is trying to dig themselves out of their current hole with a roster depleted by injuries, including to their starting goaltender, Christian Short.
Short has been out for a week already, with what Neufeld called “an upper-body injury” and he is expected to be out for three or four more weeks, leaving the goaltending duties to 16-year-old rookie Daniel Davidson and junior ‘B’ call-up Kurt Russell.
With “five or six” guys already on the shelf heading into Friday’s two-game series against the defending BCHL champion Express, the Eagles were dealt a further, frightening blow when rookie forward Ty Westgard suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury midway through the game in Coquitlam.
After throwing a hit on the forecheck, Westgard and his Coquitlam target fell to the ice, and the Express defender’s skate came down on the back of Westgard’s leg, cutting him.
Westgard made it back to the bench, where he was treated by the team’s trainer and emergency personnel, before leaving the game on a stretcher.
Neufeld said the cut thankfully missed Westgard’s Achille’s tendon, and though it is “a deep cut” it could have easily been a lot worse. Westgard is only expected to miss about a week of action, beginning with Monday night’s game against the Langley Rivermen, which was played after press deadline.
This weekend, the Eagles travel to Prince George for a pair of games against the Spruce Kings.
Westgard’s injury aside, Neufeld was mostly pleased with his team’s effort Friday – for two periods at least.
The game was tied 2-2 after 40 minutes of play – with Darius Davidson and John Wesley scoring for Surrey – but the Express blew the game open in the third, outscoring the visitors 4-1 in the final frame.
“I thought for the most part, we played a great game, but our focus for 60 minutes doesn’t always seem to be there,” Neufeld said. “And you make a couple mistakes, and then you’re behind.”
There were fewer positives to take from Saturday’s 10-5 loss, as Coquitlam scored five first-period goals and cruised to the win.
It was the third time in four games that the Eagles have given up a minimum of 10 goals against – a stretch that coincides with the injury to Short.
Neufeld wasn’t making the same connection, however. Rather than suggest goaltending has been an issue, the first-year coach insisted that team defence as a whole has been subpar.
“We’re allowing teams to very easily come into our (zone) and get good quality shots,” he said. “We’re giving up Grade-A chances, and when you do that against (good) teams, they’re going to put those chances in the right spot, no matter who is in net.”
Looking on the bright side, Neufeld did say the aforementioned defensive issues “are definitely solvable” while adding that the losing skid hasn’t dampened the spirits of his squad.
“Our leadership group is strong. At this point, we really just need someone to take the bull by the horns and continue to lead us out of this (hole).”