Moral victories only occur during losses but for rebuilding teams they do come along, and such was the case for the Surrey Eagles on Thursday afternoon as they dropped a 4-2 game to the Cowichan Valley Capitals at the B.C. Hockey League’s Showcase Festival at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
The Capitals got a late third-period goal from Brady Lynn, who then completed his hat trick with an empty-net tally with two seconds to go, to ease past the Eagles to complete a three-game season sweep. With the win, the Capitals improved their record to 9-3 and increased their lead atop the Interior Division to four points over the Powell River Kings. The loss, Surrey’s third straight, dropped them to 4-7 after a 2-0 start to their season, and on the basis of games played into last place in the Mainland Division.
Cue the optimism, as well as the regret of not getting even a point in the standings. “We probably played our best game of the year,” said Eagles head coach Cam Keith, whose team had played its worst game of the season on Wednesday in dropping a 6-2 decision to the Nanaimo Clippers in their first Showcase game. “It’s tough to lose those,” continued Keith. “You want to see the results when you play your best games. But we took some really positive strides with our level effort. I think we found the compete level we need to be successful in this league. We controlled the play for large stretches and I really liked how we were tenacious on the forecheck. We’re still not getting off enough shots which is something we need to address, but it was a huge game for us to see how we need to play, and as we showed today can play.”
“I felt like we won the game. I know we didn’t get the result, and I know as a coach I need to demand that of our players, but tonight I felt like we won this game. It’s the kind of game we need to hold to as our standard and know this is the way we need to play to get results, consistently. We need to hold to this level, and then we will get results.”
Reversing an early-season trend, the Eagles scored first for the second straight game when White Rock product Buddy Johnson scored his first BCHL goal at the 3:21 mark. Cowichan tied it up on Lynn’s first of the game midway through the period and then took the lead on a goal by Will Arquiett in the final minute. Both goals were assisted by Olivier Gauthier, who finished with three helpers on the night.
The second period saw the Eagles kill off two early penalties then notch the equalizer from Hudson Schandor at 8:55. The game then went back and forth until Surrey was again assessed two straight minor penalties in the final 10 minutes, and although they killed off both of them, their effort fell short when a nifty poke check sent Lynn in alone on Surrey goaltender Cal Schell and he was able to slip the puck under his pads for the game-winner.
There’s optimism, and there’s realism, and Keith knows it. “We’re starting to dig ourselves a bit into a hole here,” he said. “We have to find a way to get some points so we don’t find ourselves too far back in our division.”
The Eagles played both games without the services of suspended defenseman Owen Nolan. He can return on Saturday night when the Eagles make the trip back up the Trans-Canada Highway to Chilliwack for the third time in four days to take on the hometown Chiefs. Surrey did, however, see three injured regulars return to the lineup for the Showcase games, and Keith said he is also hoping for the same from forward Kenny Riddett, who has been sidelined since the opening weekend of the season.
“Kenny’s a real blue-collar, energy-style guy,” Keith said of a team which needs more spark like the effort it had just put it. “Once we get him back, we’re only down one player. So, no excuses moving forward here, we’ve got a full lineup.”