Injuries, losses pile up for Surrey Eagles

BC Hockey League team is "not built on excuses" says coach

The losses – and the injuries – continue to add up for the Surrey Eagles.

The struggling BC Hockey League club lost three more games last week, extending their losing skid to 11. To make matters worse, they’re attempting to end their losing slide with a third of the regular roster on the injured list; the team played without seven regulars on the weekend, including key forwards John Wesley, Tyler Andrews and Donovan Ott, among others, as well as goaltender Justin LaForest, who has played just eight games this season and likely remains out until mid-December.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Eagles fell 4-1 on home ice to the Chilliwack Chiefs, and Friday night lost a rematch, also at South Surrey Arena, 7-0. Surrey nearly broke out of their slump Sunday afternoon against the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings, but lost 4-2 after an empty-net goal from the visitors iced what had been a one-goal game.

“It’s tough, we’ve just been decimated with injuries,” said Eagles head coach Blaine Neufeld.

“This is just the point of the season we’re at – everybody goes through it at some point, and we’re in it now.

“It’s tough, but we’re not a team that’s built on excuses. We just need to go out and get a win.”

Neufeld admitted to the difficulties of trying to climb out of a hole with a lineup chock full of younger, affiliate players, but suggested it was a chance for those players to step up and fill the void.

“As a coach, you draw upon the fact that there are opportunities for different guys, and you make sure the guys in the room know they have a chance to show they’re capable of success.”

With the current losing streak approaching the one-month mark – the team’s last win came Oct. 20 against the Langley Rivermen – Neufeld knows it is getting closer and closer to last season’s record slide, which hit 16 games in a row without a win.

But that said, he wasn’t drawing many parallels between the two situations, and was optimistic his current club would get into the win column soon.

“The group that we have, there’s only four guys from last year’s team – the rest didn’t experience it,” he said. “We’re a new group, with new, different challenges.

“We weren’t trying to play with so many injuries (at once) last year, so this is different. We’re playing good hockey against good teams – we’ve had a lot of one-goal games.”

Neufeld said the one-goal losses of late – specifically against top clubs like Salmon Arm and Vernon – have been difficult, at times, for his young squad to stomach, but in the end, are no different than losing by any other number.

“You’re going to be frustrated when you’re in a game right to the end and don’t get the win, and maybe emotionally, it takes more out of you, but losing is losing. Nobody likes it and we’re working hard to find a win,” he said.

After a busy few weeks on the ice – the team has played eight games since Oct. 30 – Surrey will get something of a breather this week, with just one game on tap for this weekend, a Sunday afternoon home game against Washington’s Wenatchee Wild, who sit second in the Mainland Division with a 14-5-2-2 record (won-lost-tie-overtime loss) in their first BCHL season.

“It’s a nice, quiet week – a chance to get healthy and have some good practice time,” Neufeld said.

Prospect Game tickets on sale

Some of the top junior ‘A’ hockey prospects are coming to South Surrey in the new year, and tickets to see them play are now on sale.

The Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game is to be held at South Surrey Arena on Jan. 26 – it was announced back in September that the annual showcase would be hosted by the Surrey Eagles – and tickets went on sale Friday.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through the Surrey Eagles’ office by calling 604-531-4625 or online at www.surreyeagles.ca

As well, tickets can be bought in person, at the Eagles’ ticket office at South Surrey Arena (2199 148 St.) from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., as well as during all Eagles’ home games.

The prospects game is one of the premier events on the Canadian junior-hockey schedule, and will give participating players the chance to perform in from of a variety of scouts from the National Hockey League as well as NCAA and Canadian universities.

“It’s a good chance for fans to see what the best junior ‘A’ players in the country have to offer,” said Eagles coach Blaine Neufeld.

Rosters for the game have yet to be announced, and will be decided upon by the participating leagues and NHL Central Scouting, which ranks players for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Players taking part will be from the BC Hockey League, as well as junior ‘A’ leagues in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.

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