Darius Davidson has endured four losing seasons with the Surrey Eagles so the perma-grin he was sporting Friday night was well earned.
The towering forward scored 38 seconds into four-on-four overtime as the Eagles shaded the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in B.C. Hockey League action Friday night before 1,855 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Davidson, 20, deftly tipped a point shot by defenceman Nick Minerva past Vernon goalie Cole Demers as Surrey won their second game of the season. Paul McAvoy drew the secondary assist. The Eagles mobbed one another against the side boards like they had won a playoff tilt.
Davidson, a Surrey minor product, smiled when asked if he works on deflections in practice.
“Sometimes,” said the soft-spoken No. 91. “I guess I kind of got lucky at the end but it goes in.”
Davidson, named first star, forced the extra session by levelling the score 2-2 at 9:25 of the third period when Desi Burgart Riverdanced through a few Vipers from the blueline in and fed Davidson for his sixth snipe of the season. Second star Ashton Calder also earned an assist.
Surrey (2-6-1) opened the scoring at 13:20 of the second period when Calder deflected a point shot by Demers. D-man Cole Williams and Jeffrey Stewart pocketed helpers.
The Vipers (5-3-2) equalized four minutes later when Hunter Zandee buried his second of the season from the far left sidewall. Steven Jandric and third star Brett Stapley collected assists.
Vernon went in front midway through the third period when blueliner Mitchell Oliver picked up a wild rebound off the back boards and hit an empty net from 25 feet after Eagle goalie Michael Botiz fell in his crease. Dario Piva of the Eagles had 36 seconds left in a minor for high sticking Christian Cakebread in the face. Captain Riley Brandt and Stapley counted assists.
Vernon outshot Surrey 42-31 in regulation with Botiz – an Oakville, Ont. product recently acquired by the Birds – brilliant most of the night. He recorded a huge sprawling leg save off former WHL Austin Adamson on a first-period power play and stopped a rocket by d-man Carter Stephenson from the left hashmarks with eights second left in the opening 20.
“It was a good overall effort for the guys,” said Davidson, who finished last season with the Penticton Vees. “Our goalie played big and made a couple of huge saves and we figured out a way to get it done in the end. It was a good road win.”
Vernon visits the defending Royal Bank Cup champion West Kelowna Warriors Saturday night, while Surrey takes on the Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm. The Silverbacks upended the host Warriors 5-3 before 785 fans at Royal LePage Place Friday night.
Davidson said the Eagles have lost a few tough one-goal games and with five players carrying NCAA Division 1 scholarships, he believes they won’t be in the Mainland Division cellar for much longer.
“Obviously, this is a big boost for our morale. Now we have to start getting a few more wins and keep it rolling. If we put in a good effort in Salmon Arm, we’ll stand our ground against them. We have a good team here. I think we’ll be one of the top teams in the league this year.”
Hardest check of the night was tossed by Stephenson on Nicholas Fea near the left sidewall in the Surrey zone midway through the middle frame.
Vernon pressed hard for the winner as they enjoyed a man advantage when Jordan Robert was whistled for slashing with 4:48 remaining. Stephenson wired a heavy shot from the left point which got through Botiz but didn’t cross the goal-line. Brandt had a decent chance on the same powerplay, while Adamson had a good look with seven seconds left.
Said Brandt: “It comes down to a full 60 minutes. We had a good game and a good effort but a couple of breakdowns and we gotta capitalize on some of those scoring opportunities. He (Botiz) had a good game; he stood on his head for those guys. Our goalie played well too; it’s a tough bounce. I’m sure our guys are gonna regroup from tonight and be ready for tomorrow night. It’s one game so you just gotta move on. We know losing sucks and we have to come out every game with a solid effort.”
The Vees grounded the Merritt Centennials 5-1 before 2,860 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Penticton leads the league at 8-1.
Salmon Arm, meanwhile, has acquired forward Haydn Hopkins from the Victoria Grizzlies for future considerations.
Hopkins, a 5-foot-9, 183-pounder, has spent parts of the last three seasons in the Western Hockey League. Originally drafted in the 12th round of the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft by the Saskatoon Blades, the Victoria product has suited up for Saskatoon, the Prince George Cougars, and most recently the Vancouver Giants.
The 18-year-old, right handed shot appeared in 53 WHL games, recording three goals and 10 points. Hopkins compiled 19 goals and 60 points in 67 games with the South Island Royals in the B.C. Major Midget League as a 16-year-old.
To make room for Hopkins, the Silverbacks traded White Rock’s Ben Evanish to the Whitecourt Wolverines of the AJHL for futures. Evanish, who rang up 41 goals and 70 points with the Valley West Hawks, struggled in the Silvertips’ camp and got in only four regular-season games.