Surrey, BC – Two days and one game after proving they can play here or there with the B.C. Hockey League’s elite in losing a one-goal game on the road to the powerhouse Penticton Vees, the Surrey Eagles fell short in doubling up on that performance on home ice on Friday night as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Wenatchee Wild in BCHL action at the South Surrey Arena.
The Wild, in the midst of their own mid-division, multi-team playoff positioning tussle in the Interior Division as the regular season winds down, did enough to win their second road game in the past three nights to maintain pace with the Vernon Vipers and Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
“I thought we lost that jam, that extra compete level that we’ve had in our previous few games,” Eagles head coach Cam Keith said bluntly post-game. “That’s why we have been having success, and we were only having it at times tonight. We were chasing the game more than we normally do.”
The Wild, who beat the Eagles 4-3 in overtime last month when the two teams faced off south of the border, outshot Surrey 25-14 through the first 40 minutes. But after giving up the 2-2 tying goal early in the third period Wenatchee was able to pull away with two even strength goals, despite being outshot 13-8 in the final period of a cleanly and evenly played game. By referees’ decision, Surrey was assigned four of the five minor penalties called in the contest.
The loss leaves Surrey in third place in the Mainland Division, five points ahead of the Langley Rivermen, who now hold two games in hand. While the Eagles are guaranteed at minimum a .500 road record this season, that can’t yet be said for their home record. Friday night’s game was the first of five straight for the Eagles inside the South Surrey Arena, and sixth in their last seven as the BCHL regular season winds down. Friday’s loss drops them two below the break-even mark at home, which as every coach will admit usually doesn’t cut it in the long run.
Asked how he’s like to pump up his team’s record in front of its fans at the SSA, Keith was again blunt. “If I knew how I’d already have done it. But I believe this team was built for the big ice. I believe when we’re playing our ultimate hockey other teams will come in here and watch the puck move around. When we’re tired, or not working hard enough, we can be bad because we’re not pure enough and athletic enough to win on just individual efforts. We need to understand that and buy into it on a permanent basis. Sunday’s going to be a big game for our group,” said Keith of the mid-afternoon face-off against the Interior Division’s second-placed Nanaimo Clippers. “We have to bring the effort that matches the other team.”