Surrey Eagles defenceman Jackson Ross protects the puck from a Trail Smoke Eater during Sunday’s game at South Surrey Arena. (Garrett James photo)

Surrey Eagles ring in the new year with pair of victories

Perry Winfree scores OT winner Sunday against Trail Smoke Eaters

The Surrey Eagles started the new year off right last week, winning two of their first three games of 2018 – though their most recent victory came only as a result of a last-minute comeback.

On Sunday afternoon at South Surrey Arena, the Eagles edged the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters 3-2 in overtime, but the game was nearly over in regulation, as the home team trailed 2-1 in the final minute until, with netminder Nic Tallarico on the bench for the extra attacker, Surrey forward Jeff Stewart – who also scored the team’s first goal – tied the game with 52 seconds remaining.

Then, in the sudden-death period, defenceman Perry Winfree scored his third goal of the season, pinching down from the blue line before firing a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Trail goalie Adam Marcoux to give the Eagles the win.

Tallarico made 23 saves to earn the victory, which boosts the Eagles third place in their division with 46 points and a record of 20-14-4-2 (win-loss-overtime loss-tie). Both the Rivermen and Prince George Spruce Kings remain ahead of them in the quest for a division title, with 50 points each. The Eagles, however, have played two fewer games than Langley and one less that the Kings.

Sunday’s win was the Eagles’ second of the week – on Wednesday, they beat the Mainland Division rival Langley Rivermen 5-4 on the road. On Saturday, they lost 4-1 to the Chilliwack Chiefs in another road tilt.

Wednesday’s victory was an entertaining one for any Eagles’ fans who made the trek east to Langley, though it was probably a less-than-ideal game in the eyes of the team’s coaching staff, despite the result. After the Rivermen staked themselves to a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the first period, the Eagles responded by reeling off four goals in 10 minutes before the first intermission on goals from Jackson Ross, Aaron White, captain Jordan Robert and Ryan Brushett.

And while the lead held the rest of the game, there were more than few dicey moments as the home side attempted a comeback. Langley’s Ethan Leyh made it 4-2 midway through the second period, and then Stewart and Rivermen John Wojciechowski traded goals to made it 5-3 after 40 minutes. But in the third, Langley bridged the gap further when Leyh scored his second of the game with less than five minutes to go, but it was as close as they would get, and Surrey escaped with two points.

Daniel Davidson was between the pipes for Surrey, stopping 33 shots to earn his 11th win of the season. Both Stewart and Brushett finished the game with three points.

Saturday’s game was the only blemish on the Eagles’ week, losing 4-1 to the Chiefs. Desi Burgart scored the lone goal for the visitors, who were playing without suspended forwards Ty Westgard and Matthew Campese, who were given two and three-game bans, respectively, after major penalties received in a Dec. 29 game.

The Eagles will play three games this weekend, beginning Friday at home against the Rivermen. On Saturday, they’ll travel to Coquitlam for a date with the Express before returning to South Surrey Sunday afternoon for a 4 p.m. battle with the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Friday’s home game is also “Underwear and Sock Toss” night at South Surrey Arena, as fans are encouraged to bring new socks and undergarments to the game, and toss them on the ice when the home team scores its first goal.

The clothing will then be collected at donated to the local homeless population.

The event is in support of the seventh annual Toque Tuesday initiative in Surrey, which also involves a charity road hockey game at City Hall Plaza on Feb. 6.

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