What was a difficult start to the week ended in a positive fashion for the Surrey Eagles, as the junior ‘A’ hockey team earned a victory on home ice Sunday afternoon, just a few days after returning from a trip to Vancouver Island that yielded no points.
Playing in front of their home fans at South Surrey Arena for just the second time this season, the Eagles defeated their division rival Langley Rivermen 5-3 Sunday, twice erasing two-goal deficits en route to the win.
Neither team scored in the first period, but both teams’ offences came alive – to say the least – in the midde frame, with the two teams combining for eight goals on 32 shots.
The Rivermen – who were playing their third game in three nights – were the first to strike, with Tanner Versluis and Jonathan Stein each scoring a minute apart to stake the visitors to a 2-0 lead by the three-minute mark of the period.
The two-goal cushion didn’t last long, however, as Eagles forward Holden Katzalay, with an assist to linemate Brandon Santa Juana, scored 13 seconds after Stein’s marker.
Four minutes later, Brendan Budy restored Langley’s two-goal lead with his second goal of the season, but the final 12 minutes of the period saw the Eagles take control of the play and dominate through to the second intermission. Surrey scored four straight goals – from Christian Fitzgerald, who notched his first career BCHL goal; from Katzalay, who now has a team-best four goals on the season; followed by markers from Adamo Santia and captain Cody Schiavon, who scored on the power play to round out the scoring.
Though they got out of the period with the lead – and neither team scored in the third – the Eagles did suffer one setback in the second, as starting netminder Cal Schell exited the game 12 minutes into the period after taking an inadvertent stick to the head from a teammate in front of the net.
Schell stopped 22 of 25 shots before leaving the game, and Thomas Scarfone was even better in relief, stopping all 20 shots he faced the rest of the way.
“It should have been a one-goal game multiple times,” Eagles coach Cam Keith, discussing the game from that point forward, said in a news release posted to the team’s website. “(Scarfone) never gives up on plays, he is always trying to get to the areas which causes them to take that extra second to try to score. He’s an amazing athlete. He really competes.
“I thought (the Rivermen) played great. They were physical, and created a lot of opportunities around our net. It could easily have been a game where we couldn’t come back… You need your goaltender to be your best player most nights if you’re going to be a good team. Right now, it looks like we have two guys who can win us some games, so it’s huge.”
We're still a few days away from our next game… so to help tide us over, here are some of the best shots from our Vancouver Island road trip! 👀🤩🦅
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) September 20, 2019
Surrey now sits second in the BC Hockey League’s Mainland Division, with a 3-3 win-loss record. They trail only the Coquitlam Express, who’ve jumped out to a red-hot 4-1 start through the first few weeks of the season.
Since training camp, Keith – who is in his first year at the helm of the club – has repeatedly said the team, which is made up almost entirely of new players compared to last season, is “putting the past behind us” and erasing the memory of last year’s struggles. So far, his plan seems to be working; last year, Surrey didn’t win its third game of the season until early October, after 10 games.
Prior to Sunday’s win, the Eagles dropped a pair of games to Vancouver Island foes on a rare midweek road trip. On Sept. 17, Surrey lost 6-3 to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, and a day later, fell 5-2 to the Island-Division leading Cowichan Valley Capitals.
Against the Bulldogs, Surrey got goals from Christophe Tellier, Cade Alami and Schiavon, and led 3-1 after two periods of play before the home team exploded for five third-period goals to steal two points.
The next night in Cowichan, Carter King and Katzalay were the Eagles’ goal-scorers, in a game the Semiahmoo Peninsula squad never led; they trailed 3-0 early before cutting the lead to 3-2, but the Caps extended to lead to 5-2 in the third.
After four of six games on the road to start the season, the Eagles are back on home ice Friday, when they host the Rivermen. On Saturday, the two teams head east for a rematch at Langley’s George Preston Recreation Centre, and on Sunday, the Eagles are back in their own barn for a 4 p.m. game against visiting Cowichan.