Photos courtesy of Garrett James
It’s hard to believe, but the Surrey Eagles are already 29 games into the 2017-18 BCHL season – the official halfway point. Their record of 14-12-2-1 is good for 31 points, 3rd place in the Mainland Division.
In the first season behind the bench for the duo of Brandon West and Linden Saip, the team has a goal differential of -14, but there have been many bright spots. Johnny Wesley currently leads the league in goal scoring with 22, and Ty Westgard is racking up the assists with 32 in only 29 games. He was named player of the month in the BCHL for October as a result.
The goaltending has been solid with the pair of netminders Daniel Davidson and Nic Tallarico splitting time. Davidson is posting the best save percentage of his career at .901, and Tallarico recently suffered his first loss with the Eagles in his 10th appearance, with a strong .891 save percentage of his own.
Recent acquisitions of Cory Babichuk on defence and Matthew Campese up front have been the spark that the team was looking for, receiving contributions from both players in their limited time so far.
At the end of each season, the Eagles hand out a series of awards for a variety of different achievements. Now that it is officially the halfway point, team broadcasters Steve Erickson and Greg Balloch will go through each one and pick who they think is the leading candidate.
Steve Erickson: Ty Westgard
– When you talk about hot hands, you talk about Ty Westgard. He’s really been working well with his linemates, and if he keeps this roll going he’ll be the one that finishes with the most points at the end of the season.
Greg Balloch: Johnny Wesley
– It’s difficult to imagine where the Eagles would be this season without Johnny Wesley. He has paced the league in goals from essentially the drop of the puck on open day. While Ty Westgard is currently leading the team in points thanks to his playmaking ability, I think Wesley will continue his hot hand through the rest of the season an ultimately finish in the top spot.
SE: Cody Schiavon
– I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Cody Schiavon. He’s a talented young player that comes to work every day. He works at both ends of the ice, as well. I like what he brings to the team as a well-rounded defenceman. I think he’s become a big part of this team.
GB: Daniel Davidson
– It’s been really fun to watch Daniel Davidson come into his own this season. He’s obliterating his previous career high in save percentage by almost 5%, and is showing no signs of slowing down. His patience and control have given the Eagles the type of goaltending that they need to achieve success.
Rookie of the Year
SE: Aaron White
– This is a tough one to pick because there have been a few different rookies making an impact on this team, but I’ll go with Aaron White. He has so much skill, and he’s another player that has no quit in his game. He has a really good hard-fighting attitude and he loves to drive the play.
GB: Owen Norton
– It’s never an easy transition for a defenceman to make the jump from Junior B to Junior A, but for 19-year-old Owen Norton, it has looked seamless. He’s been quarterbacking the powerplay all year long, which has been a big reason why he’s been able to pick up 14 assists already this season.
SE: Jackson Ross
– He’s had some ups and downs this year, but I’ll go with Jackson Ross. You can tell that he always gives 110% on every shift, especially in the defensive end. Sometimes he’ll be knocked down, but he just keeps on going. This team definitely feeds off his energy.
GB: Jeff Stewart
– After a bit of a slow start, Jeff Stewart has really turned his season around. You knew the results would come, because even when he wasn’t picking up points, he was creating offence and getting opportunities. It’s hard to find a player that puts out a more consistent effort from night to night.
SE: Connor Sundquist
– If I can only pick one, I’ll have to go with Connor Sundquist. I think he is the type of guy that is quiet and lets his play do the talking for him. When you need him to step up, he always does. He may not always get his name on the scoresheet, but he always contributes – each and every game.
GB: Desi Burgart
– While a lot of the attention on the top line goes to Wesley and Westgard, Desi Burgart deserves some of the credit as well. He’s the straw that stirs the drink most nights, creating time and space for his linemates. Head coach Brandon West likes to point out his importance from night to night, and Wesley will be the first one to tell you that he doesn’t have 22 goals this season without help from Westgard and Burgart.
SE: Owen Norton
– You can’t argue with the productivity on the back end that Owen Norton has given the Eagles. He has really been the quarterback on the back end. He sees the ice so well, and is great at setting the play up. He’s comfortable in a variety of different roles, and he seems to be a great motivator on the bench as well.
GB: Jackson Ross
– Not only did Jackson Ross take on a bigger on-ice role with the Eagles at the start of the season, he took one off-ice as well being named assistant captain. He eats up ice time in all situations every night, and the calmness that he brings at both ends of the ice is invaluable. Oh yeah, and he’s already beaten his career high in points with 11 at the halfway point.
SE: Johnny Wesley
– As long as he stays out of the penalty box, I think Johnny Wesley will be the MVP of this season for the Eagles. It feels like as he goes, so goes the rest of the team. If he misses a chance or gets frustrated, he can sometimes take it out on himself. If he can control that part of the game, the sky is the limit for the amount of points he can continue to rack up.
GB: Johnny Wesley
– Johnny Wesley provides the scoring punch that the Eagles have been missing in recent years. He not only scores big-moment goals, but he takes attention away from his linemates – affording them time and space to create more offence. There are a lot of valuable players on this Eagles team, but there is no bigger piece than Johnny Wesley.