Chilliwack, BC – The Surrey Eagles, who dress more rookies than any other team in the B.C. Hockey League, and who now have only two returnees from last season’s team, scored an improbable, dramatic, come-from-behind 4-3 win over the host Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday night.
Forward Holden Katzalay provided the heroics as he poked home the game-winner with just 1.7 seconds left. Perhaps more notably, the victory was Surrey’s first in the past five years at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
As was to be expected, with such a drastic remake of their roster in the off-season, the Eagles struggled for most of the first two months of the season, and even with the win remain in the cellar of the Mainland Division with a 7-13-0-1 record. However, recent performances have pointed to an uptick in the team’s fortunes, and, “Hopefully, this is our turnaround game, our belief game,” Eagles head coach Cam Keith said amid the post-game celebrations.
No one watching the first period would have wagered on the final score. Chilliwack was completely in control, were the aggressors physically, fired 21 shots at Surrey netminder Thomas Scarfone to only six for the Eagles, and took a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
Which made for an interesting discussion in the visitors’ dressing room. “Actually, I didn’t say much,” admitted Keith, “but more listened as some of the veterans stepped up and said the right things. Sometimes you’re not going to have a period go your way, but the teams that are good are the ones that respond and figure it out, so you have to give the guys credit. They came out in the second determined, after being pretty much embarrassed in the first period.”
Whatever was said worked, as Surrey quickly worked its way back into the game as the second period unfolded, and outshot the Chiefs 13-5 in the middle 20 minutes. Goals by Brandon Santa Juana and Wyatt Schlaht precisely one minute apart midway through the frame drew them even at 2-2, and after Hudson Schandor scored with the man advantage at 18:12 to give them the lead, Surrey had played one of its more complete periods of the season immediately after playing one of its worst.
The Chiefs responded with an early goal in the third to tie the game at 3-3, but Surrey gave up little else in the final stanza, setting the stage for Katzalay’s game-winner/streak-snapper. Linemate Cristophe Tellier made a good play at the Chilliwack blueline to get the puck behind the net, then fed it out front where Schandor was able to tip it over to Katzalay, who banged home the game winner.
“I feel like we’re starting to play better hockey in the third periods, by not taking as many chances,” said Keith. “We did a real good job tonight putting pucks beneath tonight, trying almost the safe way of earning offense, through cycling and keeping pucks low and grinding it out more. I think it took a toll on Chilliwack. Their energy wasn’t there as much as the first period as the game went on.”
Coming off the heels of Friday night’s tough loss at home to the league-leading Penticton Vees in a measuring stick contest in which the Eagles more than held their own, Saturday’s victory reinforced the upward trajectory the team has shown in the past couple of weeks. The Eagles will attempt to keep the ball rolling on Sunday as they play host to the surging 11-7-1 Vernon Vipers and aim for a second straight win for only the second time this season, their first back-to-back Ws coming on the road in Prince George on opening weekend. For both teams, it will be their game in three days.