The Surrey Eagles are finally on the board with a win.
The BC Hockey League squad – which had went winless through the season’s opening two weekends, with just two overtime-loss points to show for their efforts – got their first victory Sunday evening at South Surrey Arena, with a 3-1 win over the visiting Langley Rivermen.
“Finally – it felt like that was long overdue,” said Eagles’ bench boss Blaine Neufeld, who notched his first win as a Junior ‘A’ head coach.
“We felt like we played well in five of our six games before (Sunday), but I thought this was our best 60-minute effort of the season, so it’s nice for the guys to get rewarded for it.
“It’s just one regular-season win, but it feels good.”
The Eagles started their weekend schedule on the wrong end of another 3-1 score, losing to the Nanaimo Clippers Friday night.
As has been the case since Game 1 of the season last month, goaltender Christian Short – who has faced more shots than any other goaltender in the league, by a wide margin – was a major reason the Birds escaped with the victory Sunday over their division rivals from Langley.
Short, an Ontario native who turned 19 last week, stopped 29 of 30 shots. The only shot that beat him came 5:59 into the first period when Langley’s Ryan Coulter deflected a Jordan Schneider point shot over Short’s shoulder and into the back of the net.
“He’s just been really solid for us,” Neufeld said.
“He’s faced a lot of rubber, and he’ll probably continue to play a lot for us, but we’ve been making some strides defensively, so hopefully we can limit the shot totals (against).”
The Rivermen’s goal was sandwiched between a pair from the home team, as Joe Drapluk scored a power-play goal from close range, finishing off a play that began with a Latrell Charleson blast from the blue line. The shot was stopped by Langley goalie Bo Didur – who spent last year with the Eagles – but the goaltender couldn’t hold onto the puck, and eventually Drapluk shoveled it into the net on his backhand.
With the score 1-1 late in the first period, Ben Vikich scored his second goal of the season – banging home a rebound after Didur stopped an initial Chase McMurphy breakaway – to restore the home team’s lead.
The Eagles’ one-goal lead stood until the end of the second period, when Surrey rookie John Wesley took a stretch pass from newly acquired defenceman Zane Schartz, made a few moves on Langley defenders and slid the puck past Didur.
Neither team scored in the third period, though the final 20 minutes was not without a few dramatic moments – and not of the good variety for the Eagles or the nearly 800 fans in attendance.
In the third, Short was injured after Langley forward Will Cook plowed into the crease, knocking the goalie to the ice. Short remained on the ice with what appeared to be a leg injury, but eventually got up and stayed in the game.
Even playing hurt, he was in fine form, stopping 10 more Langley shots the rest of the way.
On Friday, against Nanaimo, Surrey fell behind 2-0 after just 21 minutes of play – Sheldon Rempal opened the scoring on the power-play 14:25 into the first period, and just over a minute into the second frame, Clippers’ Yanni Kaldis doubled the lead.
Vikich cut the lead to 2-1 15 minutes later, but it was as close as the home team would get.
Nanaimo’s Jacob Jackson scored an insurance marker early in the third to give the Clippers a 3-1 lead.
Schartz, 20, was picked up from the Trail Smoke Eaters last week in exchange for future considerations.
The well-travelled native of Plano, Tex. has nine points in 17 games in Trail last season, and actually played 10 games for the Eagles in 2013/14. He has also suited up for the West Kelowna Warriors in his two-season BCHL career.
The addition of Schartz brings to five the number of 20-year-olds on the team’s roster, with six being the limit. Others are Vikich, McMurphy and twins Brian and Joe Drapluk.
Surrey also picked up 19-year-old defenceman Andy Chugg in exchange for 18-year-old forward Josh Blanchard.
Blanchard, who is committed to St. Cloud State in the NCAA for the 2016/17 season, had one assist in five games in Surrey.
“Adding these two guys really stabilizes the back-end for us,” Neufeld said.