Surrey, BC – A .500 weekend against three quality B.C. Hockey League opponents has the Surrey Eagles primed to make a move up the standings as they play a stretch of six straight home games
The first of the six was a flip-a-coin 3-2 shoot-out loss to the Vernon Vipers on Sunday afternoon at the South Surrey Arena in a hard-fought, if not overtly physical, evenly-played affair. That in itself is a major tribute in its own right to the revamped home team, which has struggled to find consistency as the season has unfolded and on Sunday dressed a single 20-year-old as opposed to six for the visitors, who looked very much a composed and disciplined hockey team.
Vernon’s Dawson Holt, one of those 20-year-olds, scored the game-winner with a heavy wrist shot which just got past Surrey goaltender Thomas Scarfone. Holt was the only one of six shooters to strike the twine in the one-on-one showdown after 65 minutes of what Surrey head coach Cam Keith described as “a well-played hockey game, on both sides. It was tight and nobody was giving up much. As the game progressed both teams were committed to playing really honest hockey.”
Vernon twice held one-goal leads. After the teams traded lucky goals in the first period, Vernon killed off a five-minute major early in the second period then regained the lead shortly thereafter on a subsequent powerplay of their own. A sweet three-way passing play finished off by Surrey’s Cristophe Tellier in the opening minute of the third period knotted the score for the second time.
Both Scarfone, named the game’s first star, and Vernon goalie Reilly Herbst, who just as easily could have been awarded the honour, were solid throughout the 65 minutes and acrobatic when they needed to be.
Surrey went 0-4 on the powerplay, and only managed a single shot on net during the five-minute man advantage in the second. The five-minute match penalty assessed to Vernon’s Brett Fudger for a blow to the head knocked Eagles captain Hudson Schandor out of the game with a neck injury, although the play itself was anything but sinister. “Our powerplay was not as good as it was against Chilliwack last night,” said Keith. “I think we were being a little too cute. We didn’t really take our shots when we had them,” although the Vipers also collectively blocked a high number of shots during the game.
Surrey opened its three-game weekend with a 5-3 loss to the league-leading Penticton Vees on Friday, but then ended a five-year losing streak at the Chilliwack Coliseum in dramatic fashion via a game-winner with two seconds to play in edging the Chiefs 4-3 on Saturday. Vernon came into Sunday’s contest as one of the hottest teams in the BCHL and improved its record to 12-7-1 following a 3-6 start to the season. Testimony their move up the standings is that the team has played six straight games on the Lower Mainland and/or Island in the past 10 days and come away with nine of the possible 12 points. Somewhat remarkably, those six games were only the first of 11 straight on the road for the Vipers.
“If you have looked beforehand at those three games and those three teams and told me we were going to get three points I would have been very happy with that,” Keith acknowledged. “Actually, I think we could have had five of the six points, and that we were a bit unlucky to get only three—although three is still good. Those are the results we want.”
“And now is a must time for us,” the coach said of the lengthy homestand, and of his now 7-13-0-2 squad. “We have to keep getting points and wins so there’s not so much separation between us and the rest of the [Mainland] Division.”