Depleted Eagles win three in a row
Not even a depleted lineup could stop the Surrey Eagles from a perfect record last weekend, as the Birds won three straight and flew back into first place in the BC Hockey League’s Mainland Division.
On Friday, Surrey battled back from a pair of two-goal deficits to defeat the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-4 – though they lost their two leading scorers, Brady Shaw and Adam Tambellini due to injury.
Playing without both key forwards Saturday at South Surrey Arena, the Eagles mustered a 3-1 win over the Langley Rivermen, and Sunday afternoon, also on home ice, edged the Salmon Arm Silverback 2-1 in overtime.
In Sunday’s contest, the Eagles hit the ice without eight regulars – in addition to Shaw and Tambellini being out, Demico Hannoun, Joel Gaudet, William Clark, Tommy Stipancik, Troy Paterson and backup netminder Glenn Ferguson were all sidelined with injuries.
To make matters worse, forward Colton Mackie was ejected five minutes into the game after being given a hit-from-behind penalty.
Playing with a shortened bench, plus affiliate players Anthony Brito, Tanner Lenting, Marc Letourneau, Benjamin Vikich and netminder Scott Lapp, the Eagles fell behind to Salmon Arm 1-0 after 20 minutes when Stephen Iacobellis put the visitors up 1-0 when he potted a rebound past Eagles goalie Michael Santaguida.
Midway through the third period, Surrey, which had just 21 shots on net in the game, nearly tied the game when captain Brett Mulcahy rang a wrist shot off the goal post.
Still down by one goal and looking for an offensive spark, Eagles coach Matt Erhart juggled his injury-depleted lineup and moved defenceman Devon Toews up to play forward.
The unorthodox move paid off at 10:51 of the frame, when Toews fired a slapshot past Salmon Arm’s Angus Redmond.
“He’s played up front a little bit before, and he’s got enough skill that he’s able to play both positions,” Erhart said.
“He’d actually be pretty scary if we left him up at forward full-time.”
Rookie blue-liner Jordan Klimek won the game 2:55 into overtime when he poked a puck from under the glove of Redmond and into the net.
Klimek’s goal was his fifth of the season, and three of which have been game-winners.
“With so many guys out, we really had other guys step up,” Erhart said Monday.
Santaguida has played 15 straight games – due in part to Ferguson’s injury – and was at his best in Saturday’s win over Langley, stopping 30 of 31 shots on goal.
Prior to the team’s three-games-in-three-days weekend, Erhart hinted he might try to get his starting goalie a rest, but with injuries piling up, instead elected to go the distance with the veteran.
“With no midweek games, (playing a lot) is not as tough as it used to be,” Erhart told Peace Arch News last week. “For a veteran goalie, it shouldn’t be too difficult to play two, even three games a week. We give him breaks (in practice) when he needs them.”
Nic Pierog, with a shorthanded marker, opened the scoring Saturday, and Kevan Killistoff scored on the power play in the second period. Trevor Cameron rounded out the scoring with an insurance goal with 6:30 left in the third period.
Friday’s game was the only one in which the team played with nearly a full roster – though Paterson, Gaudet and Ferguson were still sidelined – and again it was Pierog who opened the scoring for the visiting Eagles.
The Chiefs took the lead before the midway mark of the first period, however, and were up 3-1 six minutes into the second.
Mulcahy scored twice in the middle frame, and Michael Stenerson scored once – while Jaret Babych and Austin Plevy replied for Chilliwack – to send teams into the third period tied 4-4.
Drew Best and Killistoff scored for Surrey in the final 20 minutes, to give the Eagles the victory.
Surrey now sports a record of 27-11-2-3 and has a three-point cushion on the second-place Chiefs in the Mainland Division. The Eagles have the third-best record in the entire BCHL, behind only the Penticton Vees and Victoria Grizzlies, who each have 63 points.
The Eagles have a lighter schedule this week, though they do have to travel north for a Thursday game against the Prince George Spruce Kings. After taking on the Kings, the Eagles return home for a Saturday matchup against the Rivermen at South Surrey Arena.
Erhart expected the majority of his injured players – minus Ferguson and Paterson, who are out longer term – to be back soon, if not for Thursday’s game then likely Saturday.
“It’s a lot of minor-type injuries – the kind of thing where if it was playoffs they probably could have played,” Erhart said Monday.
“But most guys should be back within a week or so.”
College scholarship offers are coming in fast and furious for members of the Surrey Eagles lately, and forward Demico Hannoun is the latest member to sign with an NCAA school.
Hannoun, who at 17 years old is the youngest member of the Eagles, committed last week to play at Michigan Tech University beginning in the 2014/15 season.
The North Delta native is in his second year in the BC Hockey League, and this year has 14 goals and 18 assists in 39 games.
“I’m very excited to finally settle down and get a scholarship,” said Hannoun.
“It seems like a great school, and I got along with all the players and coaches while I was there visiting. I think they can help me get to the next level.”
Hannoun is the 10th member of the Eagles to sign an NCAA scholarship.