Surrey, BC – Backed by a gem of a relief appearance by goaltender Tommy Scarfone, the Surrey Eagles twice overcame deficits in what was their biggest game of the B.C. Hockey League season to date to defeat the Chilliwack Chiefs 3-2 on Monday night at the South Surrey Arena. It was a proverbial must-win game for Surrey, which now trails Chilliwack two games to one in their opening round best-of-seven playoff series.
Eagles head coach Cam Keith went with veteran Reece Klassen between the pipes to start the game, but he was victimized early by the strangest goal of the season at ‘The Nest’ just 1:57 into the game. Chilliwack captain Nathan Kelly took an innocent looking wrist shot from just past center ice that bounced off an Eagles defender up into the lights and finally came down sight-unseen over Klassen’s shoulder. At the media time-out midway through the period, Klassen pulled himself, citing dizzy spells he said were affecting his vision.
Enter Scarfone, who merely stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced, and could not be blamed for his goal allowed, a sweet deflection by defenseman Cooper Moore directly in front of the Eagles net.
“If there is anyone who could come into a situation where you’re up against the wall and thrive, it would be Tommy Scarfone. In tough, hostile environments he seems to play better,” said Keith. “He’s done that for us a lot this season. He loves to battle. He’ll be going for us again tomorrow.”
Playing without veteran defensemen Kieran O’Hearn (suspension) and Brendan Kim (injury) the Eagles blueline corps stepped to the fore and were in on all three goals.
Defenseman Brett Bliss got the Eagles on the board at 13:59 of the first period with a seeing-eye wrister from the point on the powerplay before Moore restored the Chiefs lead four minutes later.
The Eagles were at their opportunistic best as the second period got underway. Carter King tied the game 50 seconds into the period with a deft re-direct of a point shot by defenseman Jimmy Darby. The play was set up when Cristophe Tellier, who was flying all night long, stole the puck in the Chiefs zone.
Seventy-two seconds later the Eagles took their first lead of the series when defenseman Cade Alami made a smart decision at the blueline to get off a hard shot on net which bounced directly off the backboards onto the waiting stick of Wyatt Schlaht who immediately belted it past Chiefs goaltender Mathieu Caron who once again was more than solid in the Chilliwack goal.
King and Schlaht both had a goal and an assist for the Eagles, while Bliss was named the game’s first start.
The Chiefs held a 5-1 lead in shots on goal early in the first, but Caron held his team in the game as the Eagles took 19 of the next 21 shots on net. They finished with a 32-22 advantage overall in out-shooting the Chiefs for the second straight game after being badly out-shot in Game One.
After faltering down the stretch with only two wins in their final 10 games of the regular season, Chilliwack had won 6-3 and 2-0 on their home ice to open the series, after the Eagles had won the last six regular season meetings between the two teams to finish a single point behind the second-place Chiefs in the Mainland Division standings. With 13 NCAA Div. I commits and two NHL draft picks in their lineup, the series is shaping as a definite physical and mental test for the Eagles, who dress eight rookie forwards, all of them six feet or shorter.
“They’re a big, heavy team,” said Keith of the Chiefs. “So I’m very pleased with our effort. We did everything we possibly could to control the outcome tonight. Even in the third period, outside of a couple of blips, I thought we did exactly that. We competed hard and won a lot of battles. We shut down any kind of momentum, took a lot of their energy away.”
The two teams are right back at it tonight at South Surrey Arena.