Shortly after they watched as former Surrey Eagle Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 was raised to the rafters, the current members of the South Surrey BC Hockey League team honoured their fallen colleague the best way they knew how – with a win.
The Eagles earned their second win of the BCHL season with a 3-2 shootout victory over the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings Friday, capping an emotional evening that began with a pre-game ceremony honouring Joseph and the other 15 members of the Humboldt Broncos who were killed in an April 6 bus crash.
RECAP: Eagles 3 - Spruce Kings 2. Brandon Santa Juana netted his first career BCHL goal, followed by Ty Westgard's third of the season in an emotional night at South Surrey Arena. Some clutch goaltending by Cayden Bailey gave the Eagles their second victory of the season. pic.twitter.com/0SXSBTrnVJ— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) September 29, 2018
“It was a crazy weekend, very emotional,” said Eagles head coach Peter Schaefer, who was a teammate of Jaxon’s father, Chris, while playing professionally in Europe in the early 2000s.
“It was very touching.”
As part of the ceremony, 16 hockey sticks were set out near the front entrance to South Surrey Arena – last spring, the “Sticks out for Humboldt” trend saw sticks left on doorsteps across the country – and a prior to the opening face-off, the No. 10 banner was raised to the rafters alongside Surrey’s other retired numbers: Jeff Nabseth’s No. 8, Peter Wishloff’s No. 81 and Shane Kuss’ No. 19.
A video tribute and speeches were also involved, and at one point all the numbers on the scoreboard read ‘10’ in honour of the former forward. Joseph’s family was in town from Edmonton to take part, as were family and friends from across the Lower Mainland.
The Eagles also wore special jerseys for the game, which were modeled to resemble those of the green-and-gold clad Broncos, who play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, and are coached by Nathan Oystrick, himself a former Eagles player.
When the puck was finally dropped, Surrey took the lead on a goal from rookie Brandon Santa Juana – his first career BCHL marker – and the 1-0 cushion lasted until early in the second, when Prince George’s Dustin Manz tied the game with an unassisted goal of his own.
In the third, Eagles’ captain Ty Westgard restored the home team’s lead with his third of the year, though the Spruce Kings sent the game to overtime with a tying goal with 51 seconds left in the contest.
Overtime solved nothing – each team registered three shots on goal – which sent the game to a shootout.
The penalty-shot contest lasted until the sixth round, with Prince George’s Ben Brar and Surrey’s Westgard trading goals in the early rounds, and Eagles’ Matthew McKim, the team’s sixth shooter, giving the home side the lead.
Michael Conlin had the chance to tie the game for the Spruce Kings, but his shootout attempt was thwarted by Surrey netminder Cayden Bailey, who put on quite a show, finishing with 36 saves – including one of the highlight-reel variety in which he wrapped his left arm behind his body to deflect away a puck that had got by him and was heading into the net.
Schaefer called it “probably the most complete game we played all year.”
Unfortunately for the Birds, they weren’t able to carry Friday’s momentum into their second game of the weekend, a Sunday afternoon home game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
As was the case Friday, most of the excitement came in the game’s later stages, as the two clubs combined to score six goals in the third period. The game was tied 1-1 after 40 minutes, and Surrey took a brief lead when Chase Stevenson scored his second of the game, but the lead didn’t last long, as the visitors scored three unanswered tallies to go up 4-2.
Surrey’s Ryan Miley scored late to bridge the gap to 4-3, but Alberni’s Keaton Mastrodonato sealed the deal with an empty netter to round out the back-and-forth period.
Bailey was again between the pipes for the Eagles, stopping 30 shots.
“We reverted right back to our old ways (after Friday’s win),” Schaefer said. “Just making too many little mistakes, turning over too many pucks.”
Surrey sits last in the BCHL’s Mainland Division with a 2-7 win-loss record. The team is back on the ice Wednesday for a road game in Coquitlam against the surging Express, who have won six straight games.
This weekend, the Eagles host the Express Saturday and the Merritt Centennials on Sunday, at 4 p.m.
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