For just the second time this season, the Surrey Eagles are coming off a weekend where they lost more games than they won, after going 1-2 on a trip through the B.C. Interior.
On Friday, Surrey was shut out 2-0 by the Merritt Centennials, but bounced back the following day in Salmon Arm with a 2-1 win. The Eagles wrapped up their three-games-in-three-days Okanagan excursion with a 6-3 loss to the BCHL’s first-place Penticton Vees on Sunday afternoon.
However, despite the sub-.500 weekend, the Eagles still moved into first place in the BC Hockey League’s Coastal Conference with a 7-3-0-2 record because the Powell River Kings, who had been in first place, lost both their games on the weekend to fall a single point back of the Birds.
There wasn’t much offence to speak of in the first two weekend contests. In Friday’s loss, neither team scored in the opening 39-and-a-half minutes; the Cents got on the board when Evan Stack scored with 33 seconds remaining in the second period. Merritt extended the lead to 2-0 at the 2:28 mark of the third on a goal from Sean Maktaak.
The Eagles weren’t without chances to score – they fired 25 shots on the Merritt net, but were stymied each time by goalkeeper Lino Chimienti, who earned first-star honours for his performance.
Eagles goalie Andrew Hunt stopped 26 of 28 in a losing effort.
Hunt, a 19-year-old Surrey native, was strong beween the pipes Saturday as well, stopping 29 of 30 Silverbacks’ shot in the win over Salmon Arm.
Like the Eagles’ game the previous day, the score was 0-0 after 20 minutes, but captain Tyler Morley broke the scoreless deadlock early in the second period with his team-leading sixth goal of the season. Demico Hannoun and rookie defenceman Devon Toews picked up assists.
Salmon Arm’s Brock Balson tied the game 10 minutes later, but Eagles’ forward Brandon Tanev potted the winner with a shorthanded effort at the 12:53 mark of the third period, with rookie Sean McGovern picking up the assist.
In Sunday’s afternoon game, rookie Conor Barrie got the start in goal in relief of Hunt, and was peppered with 36 shots from the Vees, who’ve lost just twice in regulation time all season. Penticton scored once in each of the first two periods – Ryan Reilly and Mario Lucia got the goals – but the final 20 minutes proved to be the difference.
Despite scoring three times themselves – on goals from Brett Mulcahy, Steve Koshey and Ben Greiner – the Eagles, perhaps tired from playing their third game in less than 72 hours, gave up five to the home team, including a pair on the power play.
The Eagles are back in the Lower Mainland this weekend, with a game scheduled in Coquitlam Friday night and a Sunday home game against the visiting Nanaimo Clippers. Sunday’s game is a 4 p.m. start at South Surrey Arena.