Penticton Vees’ captain Brad McClure –who leads the BCHL in scoring – moves past Surrey defenceman Michael McEachern Saturday.

Penticton Vees’ captain Brad McClure –who leads the BCHL in scoring – moves past Surrey defenceman Michael McEachern Saturday.

‘Flat’ Eagles still pick up points on road

Defensive struggles continue for BCHL team on two-game Okanagan trip

The weekend started off well for the Surrey Eagles, but ended miserably, leaving the team with another two-game split – and plenty of questions about their defensive play.

On Friday in Kelowna, the Eagles started slow but scored three times in the third to edge the West Kelowna Warriors 4-3, but things did not go nearly as well Saturday in Penticton, as the Interior Division-leading Vees – whom the Eagles defeated in last year’s BC Hockey League finals – ran roughshod over the Eagles, 7-1.

And while Eagles head coach Peter Schaefer was happy with how Friday’s game ended – even if the start wasn’t great – he was less than enthused with Saturday’s performance.

“It was just our level of compete – it wasn’t there. We didn’t come ready to play,” Schaefer said. “I thought we’d come out better, since we played them in the finals last year, and they’re a first-place team, but it was bad enough that I don’t even think you can use the game (as a measuring stick).

“You just have to forget about it, throw it out.”

Saturday, Penticton led 2-0 after the first period – on goals from Ben Dalpe and Brad McClure, the latter of whom leads the BCHL with 26 goals. In the middle frame, the Vees tagged Surrey with three more goals.

The visiting Eagles didn’t get on the board until the 13:51 mark of the third period, when Danton Heinen beat Penticton netminder Olivier Mantha.

Bo Didur took the loss in net for Surrey, stopping 26 shots on goal.

Friday’s result was better, despite the slow start – “We came out really flat in both games,” Schaefer said – as a three-goals-in-five-minutes barrage gave Surrey the win.

Neither Surrey nor West Kelowna scored in the opening 20 minutes, but the Warriors led 2-1 after two periods on goals from Reid Simmonds and Seb Lloyd.

Jonaf Renouf replied on the power-play for the Eagles, with Matthew Dawson and Braeden Russell picking up assists.

In the third period, trailing 3-1, Heinen scored twice and Luke Sandler scored the winning goal with less than five minutes left, allowing the visitors to escape with two points.

The 1-1 road trip left the Eagles in fourth place in the Mainland Division, but they’re now 16 points shy of the first-place Langley Rivermen, and seven back of the third-place Coquitlam Express. Only the lowly Chilliwack Chiefs, with a record of 7-22-1-2, are below them.

“We just can’t seem to put a streak together,” Schaefer said.

“It was a tough road trip against two really good teams, so it’s good that we were able to come back and get the one win, but we still have a lot of things we need to address.”

Not the least of which is the team’s play in their own end.

The Eagles have given up more goals than all but two other teams in the 16-team BCHL, and they’re hardly outscoring their problems – their minus-23 goal differential also puts them near the bottom of the league.

Schaefer has said for the last few weeks he’d “definitely” like to address his team’s defensive deficiencies through a trade, but that “there’s not a lot going on out there right now, but we’re still trying to improve.”

The Canadian Junior ‘A’ Hockey League trade deadline is Jan. 10.

With their short Okanagan road trip complete, the Eagles will now stick around the Lower Mainland for the rest of the month.

On Friday, they’ll head to the Langley Events Centre for a date with the first-place Rivermen, and then return to South Surrey for a game Saturday with the Nanaimo Clippers and Sunday against Coquitlam.

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