The Eagles kicked off their first game after one of the worst seasons in franchise history, and they did it against their crosstown rivals, the Langley Rivermen. After an intense main camp which exceeded new head coach Cam Keith’s expectations, the boys looked to show why they deserved to crack a spot on a revamped roster which looked to usher in a new era of Eagles hockey in anticipation for the 2019-2020 season. Tonight’s lineup featured a couple of guys who already had their spots locked up, while the rest of the roster looked to make a good first impression.
Right from the gate, the Eagles top line of Holden Cardinal, Hudson Schandor, and Brandon Santa Juana got to work and put the pressure on the Rivermen, but while the Eagles pushed the pace of play and attempted to make something happen, they weren’t able to get many shots off on the Langley starter, Kristian Lyon.
Chances were few and far between through the 1st period of play, with neither team able to break the constant neutral zone pressure their opponent possessed. Early in the first period, the Eagles got their first power-play of the game when Schandor got tripped behind the goal.
Unfortunately for Surrey fans, the Eagles power-play lacked cohesion, which was to be expected with a roster full of new faces, and failed to capitalize on their opportunity as the Rivermen were able to kill off the penalty with ease.
The Eagles received their 2nd power-play opportunity of the game a few minutes later, as the top line continued to create havoc in the offensive zone. While the 2nd power-play was a little bit better, the Eagles couldn’t capitalize, and the Rivermen were able to relieve the pressure.
After the 2 power-plays, the Rivermen picked up their game, and put a ton of pressure onto Eagles starting netminder Roan Clarke. Christian Fitzgerald received a pass from his defencemen and came in on a breakaway, but he wasn’t able to squeak it five-hole past the young goaltender, and the score remained deadlocked at 0.
With 1:50 remaining in the period, the Eagles saw themselves short-handed for the first time in the game. Gabe Schovanek was called for a hooking minor in the corner, and the Rivermen powerplay looked to turn the tide. They had a couple of quality chances, but Clarke shut the door, and the period ended with the score tied at 0.
While the Eagles trailed in the shot department by 10-5 at the end of the first period, the top line of Cardinal, Schandor, and Santa Juana dominated every time they were on the ice. The rest of the team needed to wake up if they wanted any chance of coming out of Langley with a win.
After a rough end to the 1st period, the Eagles took it upon themselves to play better, and that they did. It only took a few minutes but the top line struck when Schandor and Santa Juana came in on a 2 on 1. Schandor slid a beautiful pass over to Santa Juana, who unleashed a rocket of a one timer past the glove of Lyons to give the Eagles the 1-0 lead.
Right after the Eagles scored, the Rivermen’s found themselves in more penalty trouble. Reed Stark got called for a tripping call in the neutral zone, and the Eagles power-play looked to improve after going 0 for 2 in the first.
Only 11 seconds after the Stark penalty, Rivermen defenceman Tanner Komzak nailed Sean Ramsey in the numbers right in the right corner, and Ramsey went down in a heap. Komzak received a 5 minute major on the play, while Ramsey was able to skate off on his own power. The end result was the Eagles found themselves on a long 5 on 3.
While the Eagles weren’t able to capitalize on the 5 on 3, they were able to capitalize on the power-play for the first time in the game. Schandor capitalized on a beautiful pass by Harkirat Gill to put the Eagles up by 2, and really put the pressure on a Rivermen team which couldn’t seem to stay out of the box.
The Rivermen’s penalty trouble continued even after they killed off the major penalty, as they took another penalty with just under 11 minutes to go in the period. On the ensuing power-play, Eagles forward Buddy Johnson hammered a one timer after a great play to hold the line by Kayden Sadhra-Kang. Sadhra-Kang spun around after holding the line, and made the beautiful pass off his backhand to set up the goal. A great play from the 16 year old defender, and a beautiful finish from the White Rock native.
The Eagles continued their great play, and didn’t give the Rivermen any opportunities to gain any momentum as the 3rd came to a close. They dominated the pace of play for the entirety of the period, and outshot the Rivermen 16-3 shot in the middle frame. The shots after 2 were 21-13 for the Eagles, and they looked to put the finishing touches on a tidy exhibition win.
The Rivermen didn’t just let the Eagles stroll to the W, and got themselves on the board just under 3 minutes into the period. A great job by Landon Walter to get to the dirty area around the net saw him rewarded with a goal, as he banged home a Rivermen rebound after a great save by Eagles goaltender Marik Erickson to help Langley claw back to just a 2 goal deficit.
Right after the goal, Santa Juana had a great chance in front of the Rivermen goal to restore the 3 goal lead, but he missed the net on his chance and skated back to the bench visibly frustrated. The game was deadlocked for the next 5 minutes, with both teams unable to really generate much offence.
A little after the media timeout, Jesse Carr made a nice play to draw a tripping penalty from Rivermen center Adam Nobes. The Eagles weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunity, and their power-play dropped to 2-6 on the night.
With 5 minutes to go, Cody Hough took a kneeing penalty on the Rivermen forward trying to enter the zone, then a minute later, Suzukovich got called for cross-checking right in front of the Eagles goal, and the Rivermen had a great opportunity to try and cut the lead to 1.
They did just that, as right before the Hough penalty expired, Dalton Irvine skated from the blueline to the top of the left circle and sniped it bar down past Eagles goaltender Merik Erickson to cut the lead to 1, and give the Rivermen hope they could tie up the game.
The Eagles had other plans, and responded right away. Anthony Vidrick made a nice play to tip the puck past Irvine, and came down on a 2 on 1 with Dylan Fader. Vidrick chose to shoot, and ripped it underneath the blocker of Cooper Giesbrecht.
The Eagles were able to keep it up, and took it home. A great showing from the boys, and they finished the game with the 4-2 victory.
Tonight’s 3 stars were as followed:
1st star: Hudson Schandor 1-1-2
2nd star: Landon Walter 1-0-1
3rd star: Roan Clarke 12 saves, 0 goals allowed.
The Eagles next preseason game is at home, as they’ll play host to the Chilliwack Chiefs. Puck drop from the South Surrey Arena is 7:00pm, and the doors will open 1 hour prior to puck drop. Admission is free, although all donations are welcome. If you can’t make the game, you can catch the broadcast live on HockeyTV!