A pair of goals 12 seconds apart early in the second period, backed by a both steady and at times stellar 39-save shutout performance by veteran goaltender Clay Stevenson, propelled the visiting Coquitlam Express to a 3-0 victory over the Surrey Eagles on Friday night at South Surrey Arena.
The loss spoiled the Eagles’ home-opener following a two-game sweep of the defending Fred Page Cup champion Prince George Spruce Kings last weekend, while Coquitlam won their second straight road game to kick off their season.
Stevenson looked calm, cool and collected in the Express net right from the opening face-off, and Coquitlam took the lead on the first of two goals on the night by defenseman Nicholas Carabin at 7:21 of the opening stanza. Once Carabin added his second at 3:29 of the second, followed moments later by Bradley Ong’s highlight reel tally, Stevenson repeatedly stymied Surrey’s attack. The Eagles deserve full credit for their effort on the night, but Stevenson’s solid effort prevented them from ever gaining any momentum as they attempted to get back within striking distance after falling behind.
“It didn’t matter how many saves our guy made tonight,” Eagles coach Cam Keith said of Surrey netminder Thomas Scarfone, who finished with 33 saves on 36 shots after giving up the three goals on the first 13 shots he faced. “We just couldn’t find the net.” Stevenson’s best save came with less than five minutes to play when he stoned Surrey’s Christophe Tellier who had sped into the clear and let it rip from close in only to be denied. Stevenson was then exactly where he needed to be once Surrey pulled Scarfone for the extra attacker with two minutes to play. Despite pressing hard, Surrey couldn’t manufacture any finish.
“I thought we should have done a better job of finding second chance opportunities, and screening him,” Keith said of Stevenson’s performance. “I thought he saw a lot of our shots tonight, so, that’s something we have to get better at.
“I think we were too cute at times,” he continued. “It’s kind of the team we’ve built. I’ve said it before, we’re a passing team, but we also have to focus on when one pass is made and you’ve got a clear shot on net you have to take it. That and to try to get some bodies in front of the net a little more,” which is always easier said than done.
“It was a good game and their goalie won it for them. We just have to bear down on our chances,” said Keith.
The game was the only one this weekend for the Eagles, who embark on another set of back-to-back road games early in this young season with matchups Tuesday in Alberni Valley against the Bulldogs and Wednesday in Cowichan Valley against the Capitals.
Surrey returns home to The Nest to take on the Langley Rivermen on Sunday, September 22. Puck drop is at 4 p.m.