Top spot in the BC Hockey League’s Mainland Division remains just out of the grasp of the Surrey Eagles, after the team lost both ends of a home-and-home series with the Langley Rivermen last weekend.
Heading into the weekend, the Eagles – who had won five of their last six games – had their sights set on dethroning the first-place Rivermen, who were four points ahead of Surrey in the standings. But on Friday at South Surrey Arena, the Rivermen extended that lead to six points with a 6-1 victory, and a day later, at Langley’s George Preston Recreation Centre, further widened the gap with a 3-1 win.
The two losses dropped Surrey from second to third in the Mainland Division, with 31 points. They’re two points back of the Prince George Spruce Kings, who leapfrogged the Eagles into second on the weekend, while the Rivermen are now eight points ahead.
“We weren’t good enough, plain and simple,” Eagles head coach Brandon West told Peace Arch News. “You aren’t going to have a lot of success when you only score two goals in two games, and giving up nine is completely unaccetable.”
Despite the lopsided score in Friday’s tilt, it was actually the Eagles who opened the scoring – John Wesley potted his 22nd goal of the season 6:28 into the first period to give the home team the lead. The one-goal cushion lasted until midway through the second period, when Langley scored what turned out to be the first of six straight goals.
HIGHLIGHT: @JohnnyWesley67 tips in his league-leading 22nd goal of the season on a shot from the point from Babichuk. It's 1-0 Eagles! pic.twitter.com/03kfWyNDsm
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) November 25, 2017
“I think (the first period) was the only period we actually played,” Eagles assistant coach Linden Saip said after the game on the team’s online broadcast. “I think two and three, we didn’t compete at all. We didn’t skate, we didn’t check, we weren’t first to pucks.
“We made poor decisions in every zone on the ice, and it was one of those nights where one bad decision leads to the next, and the next and the next… We let a good team get the best of us.”
Connor Marshall and Nicholas Ponak scored less than two minutes apart to give the Rivermen a 2-1 lead, then Tanner Versluis made it 3-1 on a penalty shot – which was awarded despite the fact Versluis managed to get a shot off on the breakaway in question. Marshall added his second of the game, and third of the season, before the second intermission.
John Wojciechowski and Devin Leduc scored for the visitors in the third period.
And while the penalty shot certainly took some of the wind from the team’s sails, Saip refused to use it as an excuse for the squad’s lackluster play in the second half of the game.
“(The penalty shot) was definitely not the reason we lost the game… the refs made the call that they made, but there were a lot of other aspects of our game tonight that weren’t on point, and those are the reasons why we lost,” he said.
In the rematch Saturday, the Eagles’ offence again was stymied by the Rivermen, as Desi Burgart – with his 10th goal of the season – was the lone Bird to bulge the twine, with Wesley and Ty Westgard picking up assists.
Burgart’s marker came with Surrey trailing 2-0. The game’s only goal the rest of the way was a second-period tally by Versluis to make it 3-1 Rivermen.
The Eagles will look to halt their modest two-game losing streak when they travel down the highway to face the Chilliwack Chiefs Wednesday night.
“I think (the weekend) was a step back for us, but the good thing is we don’t have to wait all week to redeem ourselves – we get to get right back out there. That’s the good thing about midweek games,” West said.
On Saturday, the squad will be in Powell River for a date with the Kings, and on Sunday will play an afternoon affair in Port Alberni against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.