Surrey, BC – Something had to give on Sunday afternoon at the South Surrey Arena when the BCHL’s second-leading scorer, Surrey’s Cristophe Tellier, faced the league’s second-leading goalie, Nanaimo’s Jordan Naylor. This round went to the home team, but just barely, as the Eagles edged the Clippers 6-5 in a game full of momentum swings.
Tellier, who is now a solid second overall in the BCHL scoring race, kept up his torrid pace of late, with a goal and two assists before he was sent to the showers with a tad over eight minutes to play in the third period after a free-for-all broke out when his linemate and captain Hudson Schandor was levelled with a blow to the head which left him woozy-kneed on all fours on the ice. Surrey came out of the ensuing melee with a five-minute man advantage, and 22 seconds in Brandon Santa Juana fired one home through a screen to make it 6-4. After Nanaimo pulled within one playing six-on-five in the final minute, Surrey gave them little chance of the equalizer.
Naylor, second in the league in wins, and with gaudy stats, was so frustrated after surrendering Surrey’s final goal he broke his goal-stick over the pipes he tends. Both he and Surrey goaltender Tommy Scarfone were victims of some out of the blue goals as the two teams went head to toe on the scoresheet.
“For the first two periods it was pretty much back and forth with some physicality and I thought both teams were playing some good hockey,” said Eagles head coach Cam Keith. “It could have gone either way and we capitalized on our chances. Then we played a really good third until all that stuff happened. It’s hard to really critique as a coach once a major event like that happens. Usually the game kind of goes wide open, which it did. We buckled down at the end though and got the points which was the most important thing at this time of year.”
Surrey never trailed in the game, which was tied 1-1 after one. A three-goal second, including one with four ticks remaining on the clock, gave them a 4-2 lead. An exchange of goals in the third pulled Nanaimo within one twice, the second time with 8:25 remaining in the game to make it 5-4.
Eleven seconds later, Nanaimo’s Devon Mussio drilled the diminutive Schandor high and hard into the boards, knocking him out of the game, and instigating retaliation. All nine remaining skaters paired off or piled on each other, but Surrey’s six-foot-seven defenseman Cade Alami vented his team’s fury best with an extended heavyweight decision over an overmatched Kyler Kovich. The resulting penalties, which while giving Surrey the extended powerplay late in the game, saw Tellier and defenseman Owen Nolan, leading the Eagles defensemen in scoring, sent to the showers with misconducts along with Alami and Kovich for their fighting majors, as well as Schandor to the trainer’s room. Tight-lipped, Keith would only say as a coach he’d never lost four of his top players in one such fell swoop before.
He also sat forward Adamo Santia and defenseman Brendan Kim, and inserted JJ Fecteau and Jordan Hendry in their place. “Nothing against either guy at all, but they didn’t have good games last time, effort wise, and we needed to send a message before playoffs. You can’t send a message in playoffs.”
Which of course is not only on the coaches’ minds but this young team’s collectively. After missing the playoffs last season and having a slow start to the season, Surrey now holds a seven-point lead in the Mainland Division over the fourth-place Langley Rivermen, and sit six behind the third-place Chilliwack Chiefs, with both teams holding a game in hand.
Keith mentioned his team’s 38-shot outing as a good sign, but also as coaches do made note of the fact the team has surrendered 13 goals in the past three games after a long stretch of being backstopped by improved defense and goaltending. “We haven’t been playing our best hockey defensively lately, and we do need to lock it down more. We’re a young group and today was a good step in the right direction but we’ve got to keep getting better because if we play this way in the playoffs it’s going to be a crap shoot.”