The Surrey Eagles showed few signs of a holiday hangover Thursday, winning 4-1 over the first-place Cowichan Valley Capitals in their first game since the Christmas break.
The win bumped Surrey back into a tie with the Powell River Kings for second place in the BC Hockey League’s Coastal Conference with 44 points, three back of Cowichan.
“Cowichan’s a real good team, so it’s exciting to get that one,” said Eagles coach Matt Erhart. “Cowichan played the night before, so they had already shook off their rust… it took us a few minutes to get our own rust off, but after that, I thought we played well, and put a good 60 minutes together.”
It was a pair of relative newcomers who got the Birds off to a good start against the Caps, in a game that was played at Richmond’s Minoru Arena as part of the annual Richmond International Midget Hockey Tournament.
After a slow first period in which neither team bulged the twine, Surrey forward Alex Hagen and Trevor Cameron – who were both acquired in December – scored within two minutes of each other to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.
Two minutes into the third period, Cowichan put a dent in Surrey’s lead when Logan Proulx beat goaltender Andrew Hunt.
Surrey’s power-play, which was among the best in the league early in the season but has tumbled to 12th-best, extended the lead within a 50-second span midway through the final frame, when Brett Mulcahy and Devon Toews each scored goals with the man-advantage.
Cowichan responded with a power-play goal of their own with 1:50 left in the game, when Kyle Becker scored.
What pleased Erhart more than the two points in the standings was the fact that his team appears to have picked up right where they left off before Christmas, when they won five straight.
“I think the break did us good – it gave the guys a physical and mental break,” he said. “It’s a little different if you lose five straight before Christmas, but we came back recharged and ready to go.”
He was also pleased that his new additions to the forward ranks – Hagen, Cameron and Brayden Jaw, who has six assists in seven games – have fit so seemlessly among his top three lines. Hagen has found chemistry with Sean McGovern and Robert Lindores; Cameron is playing on a line with Charles Orzetti and Branden Tanev; and Jaw is alongside Brandon and Tyler Morley.
“It’s been really good. It’s given us a ton of depth, and now we’re getting goals from all four of our lines,” Erhart said. “It gives us three first lines – 1A, 1B and 1C. And any given night, a different line takes the lead.”
To make room for the new additions, D.J. Jones and Ben Griener were released; Jones has been signed in Penticton while Griener has latched on with Langley.
With the Canadian Junior ‘A’ Hockey League trade deadline approaching Jan. 10, Erhart was unsure if he’d make more moves; the team has room to card two more players.
“You’re always looking to get better, so I’ll be spending lots of time on the phone this week, I’m sure,” the coach said. “But we’re pretty happy with the guys we have, and with the chemistry in the room, so I won’t be making a move just for the sake of making a move.”