The Surrey Knights earned their first win of the hockey season on Thursday night (Dec. 19), and the players were more than happy about it.
At North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex, the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) team skated off with a 4-1 win over Grandview Steelers.
The Knights are 32 games into the 2019-20 season, and they’ve earned five points with the single win and three overtime losses.
Video posted to the team’s Twitter account shows jubilant players streaming off the ice after Thursday’s win, to the Star Wars theme music.
— Knights Hockey (@SurreyKnights) December 20, 2019
It was the first official Knights win for first-year head coach Gerry Leiper, and first for the team at the new arena in North Surrey.
“I guess it’s my first (junior hockey) win,” Leiper told the Now-Leader. “I actually had one last year when John (Craighead, team co-owner and former head coach) was sick.”
The Steelers fired 52 shots on Knights goaltender Malcolm Patry, who earned first-star honours for his performance.
The Knights jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, with goals from Jonathan Schlender and Malik Dhaliwal. The Steelers scored in the second, but the Knights held on from there. Late in the third, Evandeep Purewal and Dayton Milligan both scored empty-net goals.
Leiper said adding Patry, from Quebec, has been “the catalyst for change” for the Knights.
“With him in net we are a threat to nearly every team in the league,” Leiper said.
“You should come see him play a game. It’s pretty cool to watch.”
The Knights’ next game is Saturday night (Dec. 21) in North Vancouver, followed by a holiday break.
The team gets going again at the PJHL’s Winter Classic showcase on Friday, Jan. 3, with a 1 p.m. game against White Rock, followed by a Saturday-morning tilt with Port Moody at 10 a.m. (Jan. 4). Tickets range in price from free for kids six and under to $12 for adults. A day pass is $12.
Leiper said he’s “just the organizer” of the Knights.
“The players are the true warriors in all this,” he said. “It’s hard work being on a team like this and they show up every day ready to battle. The ones that don’t have the strength to preserve through it just quit.
“We’ve been close in a number of games this year – in 12 or 13 games we’ve either lost in OT or by one goal,” Leiper added. “And we have a reputation of being a hard-working team that prides itself on working hard right to the end, regardless of the score in the game.”
As for the game itself, Leiper said his players “focused and played our defensive system that our new assistant coach, Andy Liboiron, brought to the table. It’s been a real effective way for us to deal with faster, top-end teams in our league. So we weathered the early storm and started getting our chances and scored twice in the first.
“We have been up a couple goals a few times this season and lost so we focused on not getting to excited and keeping the task at hand clearly in front of us,” he added.
In the third period, the Steelers came out strong but eventually eased up.
“Either they got tired or felt that the mountain was too high to climb,” Leiper said. “It allowed us to get zone time in their end and took the pressure off Patry. Then with under two minutes left, they pulled their goalie and Dayton Milligan scored. That’s when all hell broke loose and everyone in the building started dancing.… It was a Christmas gift from the Hockey Gods for not giving up and perseverance these Knights have shown.”