Surrey Eagles derail Express before OT loss to Wild

Three wins in last six games for BCHL squad, with Wenatchee next on the schedule

A week after earning three of a possible four points on an Okanagan road trip, the Surrey Eagles did it again – this time on home ice.

On Thursday, the Eagles cruised to a 4-0 shutout win over the Coquitlam Express on the backs of rookie forward Nick Fea, who scored twice, and goaltender Daniel Davidson, who stopped 22 shots en route to his first career BC Hockey League shutout.

Three days later, on Sunday afternoon at South Surrey Arena, the Birds picked up another point in the standings – and nearly two – after a 6-5 loss to the Wenatchee Wild, who are still undefeated through 11 games and considered one of the top teams in the entire Canadian Junior Hockey League.

“We’re really rolling now, and we were in a very good position to get the win (Sunday) too,” said Eagles coach Blaine Neufeld.

“They really fought for 65 minutes.”

After three periods of high-scoring back-and-forth play, Wenatchee’s A.J. Vanderbeck ended the game 2:51 into overtime to give the visiting Washington squad the extra point.

The overtime frame nearly went the other direction, however, as Surrey captain Paul McAvoy nearly ended the game two minutes earlier but – with the Eagles on a four-on-three power play that had carried over from the third period – was robbed at the side of the net by Wild netminder Anthony Yamnitsky.

“The boys were really moving the puck around well, but their goalie made a heck of a save,” Neufeld said.

The would-be overtime marker would’ve been the third of the game of McAvoy, who also scored in the first and second periods.

Other Surrey goals were scored by Darius Davidson – who leads the team with nine in 11 games – defenceman Nick Minerva and Logan Mostat.

Michael Botiz was tagged with the loss in net, though he stopped 39 Wenatchee shots.

The Eagles’ offence was in fine form Thursday, as well. After neither team scored in the first 20 minutes, Fea scored the first two goals – “He had a really big week,” said Neufeld – and Jeff Stewart and Andrew Kemp also added insurance goals in the third.

And while the offensive explosion over the two games was welcome, Neufeld gave plenty of credit to his two netminders for helping the team right the ship after starting the season with six straight losses.

The team currently sits with a 3-7-2-0 record (win-loss-overtime loss-tie) but all three victories have come since the acquisition of Botiz, whom was picked up from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

“I think our goaltending has been really strong. Michael has come in here and certainly got us going a little bit, and it was great to see Daniel get his first shutout, too,” Neufeld said.

“But we’ve also been playing much more soundly (defensively), as a five-man group out there.”

Neufeld said the team’s recent surge – three wins and two overtime losses in the last six games – has validated the work the organization did over the summer, specifically in providing the roster with an influx of speed and offensive skill.

“We did a great job recruiting in the summer – I knew we did – so the start we had was a little bit shocking,” he said.

“But even in those losses, they were all close, except for one where I thought we were a little bit tired. But we identified some challenges and we’ve tried to fix them and make them into strengths.”

Two of the team’s three wins – and both overtime defeats – have come against Mainland Division rivals, which Neufeld was also pleased about.

“Those are the games you have to win, and we’re winning them, or at least picking up points in the ones we’re losing,” he said.

“And we’ve played a few less games than everyone else and are just one point back of (fourth) place. We’re in a really good spot to make a run here and catapult some teams.”

The Eagles will get another crack at the Wild Thursday, when they host the squad at South Surrey Arena. The puck drops at 6:30 p.m.

From there, the Eagles will head north to Prince George for two weekend games against the Spruce Kings.

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