A four-game losing streak that lands you in last place in your division is always cause for concern, but Surrey Eagles fans have no need to pull out the panic button. The Eagles dropped a 3-2 B.C. Hockey League decision to the hometown Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday night, but with a bounce or two the result could easily have gone Surrey’s way, pointedly for the second game in a row.
The back-to-back strong efforts from the young and rebuilding Eagles—without any points to show for it—weren’t so much baby steps as growing pains.
Said coach Cam Keith post-game, “We probably created more chances tonight than we did in our last game, but it was more of the same. We can’t finish. There’s a lack of confidence in those key times to put it behind the goalie, but tonight you have to give [Chilliwack goalie Mathieu] Caron credit. He is one of the better goalies in the league,” and he played like it, especially after his team scored the winning goal midway through the game, making a number of A-1 saves in the process.
Keith broke up his top line, but with Brandon Santa Juana exchanging places with Holden Katzalay, he and new line-mates Cristophe Tellier and Hudson Schandor produced both Surrey goals. “It was just looking for a spark,” said Keith of the mix and match approach, “because we have been creating chances but we’re not finishing. Every line needs a finisher. I’m just trying to find that for each line, the guy that can bear down and score some goals.”
Keith also pencilled in 20-year-old rookie J.J. Fecteau, who started out during training camp skating up front, as one of his six defensemen, stating, “He’s kind of found a home on our back end.” Overall defensively, the Eagles were steady if not stellar, and shut down Chilliwack’s BCHL-leading powerplay on all five opportunities. “We’re getting a good commitment to blocking shots, and guys are starting to understand their routes and positional assignments. We’ve got good smart kids who know how to take away those shots in tight,” said Keith.
In addition, Keith used 6-foot-7 defenseman Cade Alami as a net-front presence on the Eagles powerplay. Alami, who has shown slick puck-handling skills and obvious offensive instincts, showed Keith enough that he said the Eagles will continue to utilize him in the role going forward.
Things don’t get any easier for the Eagles when they return to the ice for home games on Friday and Sunday. First up is the Mainland Division leading Coquitlam Express, who are off to an 8-2 start. Sunday, the Trail Smoke Eaters arrive at the Eagles Nest, and while it will be their third game in as many days, they enter the upcoming weekend riding a five-game winning streak.
At the very least, the Eagles will have a full week of practice with a full roster, save for newly-signed Christian Fitzgerald, after a spate of injuries struck in training camp and the early part of the season. “We have to get to that point where we can start being better at home on our Olympic-size ice. That’s been one of our Achilles’ heel so far,” said Keith of the Eagles’ 1-3 record thus far at the South Surrey Arena.