Surrey Eagles earn weekend split

Nanaimo Clippers goalie Derek Dun reaches for a loose puck as Surrey forward Brady Shaw lurks nearby, during Friday
Nanaimo Clippers goalie Derek Dun reaches for a loose puck as Surrey forward Brady Shaw lurks nearby, during Friday's game at South Surrey Arena.
— image credit: Garrett James photo

The Surrey Eagles continue to inch closer to securing first place in the BC Hockey League’s Coastal Conference, after earning a split of two games last weekend.

On Friday, the first-place Birds – who now sit six points up on the Chilliwack Chiefs with six games to go – defeated the Nanaimo Clippers 3-2 on home ice. However, with a severely undermanned roster the following night in Chilliwack, Surrey fell to the Chiefs 4-2.

The Eagles played the game with just 14 skaters, as a handful of regulars were shelved due to injury or illness – including Demico Hannoun, Colton Mackie, Tommy Stipancik, Troy Paterson and backup netminder Glenn Ferguson. And to make matters worse, blue-liner Ryan Fraser-Lee broke his skate in warmup and was unable to play.

“That was tough because we were already going to play with five defencemen, so we ended up playing four, with a forward going back there every now and then,” explained Eagles coach Matt Erhart.

“It wasn’t ideal, that’s for sure.”

Roster issues aside, the Eagles still kept it close – they led 2-1 after one period and the game was tied 2-2 after 40 minutes until the Chiefs pulled away in the third, icing the game with an empty-netter at the 19:55 mark.

“We just ran out of gas a little bit,” Erhart said. “Their fourth goal came right at the end, so it was a one-goal game for the most part. We had some chances to score with the goalie pulled, too, but just couldn’t get one.

“But we were down players, and we’ve played a lot of games lately, so you’re going to get games like this. It happens.”

Surrey struggled on the power play against Chilliwack, failing to score on seven man-advantage opportunities.

Joel Gaudet and Trevor Cameron scored for Surrey, while Langley native Austin Plevy – the BCHL’s third-leading point-getter – led the Chiefs with a pair of goals.

In Friday’s 3-2 win over the Clippers at South Surrey Arena, neither team scored in the opening 20 minutes before home team pounced on the first visitors in the second period.

Adam Tambellini, Devon Toews and Brett Mulcahy scored within seven minutes in the second period to stake Surrey to a 3-0 lead. Nanaimo scored twice in the third to make it close, but couldn’t get the equalizer before the final buzzer.

Goaltender Michael Santaguida – who has played all but one game since backup netminder Ferguson was injured two months ago – earned the win between the pipes, stopping 23 shots.

Looking towards the end of the season and playoffs, Erhart said the rash of injuries – most of which, he says, are minor – has actually been a blessing in disguise, in one respect: it’s allowed the coaching staff to find successful line combinations they otherwise wouldn’t have put together.

“We’ve had to throw guys together who normally wouldn’t play together, and some of it has worked,” the coach said, pointing to his new shutdown line of Nic Pierog, Kevan Killistoff and Cameron.

“Those guys hadn’t played together all season, but they’ve been very good. We’ve been able to throw them out against other teams’ top lines, and they’ve done a real good job,” Erhart said.

As well, the team has really buckled down defensively, usually keeping the opposition to under 25 shots per game.

“We’ve been really good since probably Christmas, as far as defence goes,” he said. “We’re keeping the shots down, and keeping (the opposition) to usually two goals or less. So all we have to ask of our guys is to go out there and score one goal a period, and usually that’s been enough.”

This weekend, the team embarks on its final road trip of the season, a three-games-in-three-nights journey through the Island Division.

On Friday, Surrey will play the Powell River Kings, followed by a Saturday tilt with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and a Sunday afternoon game against Cowichan Valley.

“It’ll be a good test for us,” Erhart said.

“If we can get a couple wins, it’ll put us that much closer to clinching (first place), and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

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