The Surrey Eagles called in some offensive reinforcements prior to their road trip last weekend, and both should be familiar names to local hockey fans.
Last week, 18-year-old forward Ty Westgard – son of Eagles’ president Chuck Westgard – returned to the nest from the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals, and the South Surrey-based BC Hockey League squad also added Josh Bruce, a Surrey native and former Valley West Hawk, to the roster.
Like Westgard, Bruce, who is also 18, had been playing this season in the WHL, first with the Saskatoon Blades and most recently with the Vancouver Giants.
Westgard – whose WHL playing rights were dealt from Victoria to the Portland Winterhawks last week – has 44 games of experience with the Eagles, beginning in the 2013/14 season.
Westgard had been injured for much of the current season, scoring once in just two games with Victoria.
“We are very excited to be welcoming Westgard back to the organization,” said Eagles head coach Blaine Neufeld. “We know what we’re getting, which is a player with game-breaking ability that can step into a major role immediately.”
Last season, Westgard was the team’s third leading scorer when he left for the Royals in mid-December, with the Eagles mired in a 5-27-1-0 slump (win-loss-overtime loss-tie).
At the time, Chuck Westgard said it had “always been a dream of Ty’s” to play in the WHL, and he took the opportunity as it arose.
Last spring, after the Eagles finished its second straight season in the BCHL basement, the elder Westgard told Peace Arch News that the team’s poor play had played a part in his son’s decision to leave.
But the team to which the young forward returns is markedly different than the one he left.
This year’s Eagles already have 11 wins – four more than they had all of last season – and have a chance to run the total to 12 with a Thursday home tilt against West Kelowna.
Westgard has suited up for four games with the Eagles since his return, scoring once and adding two assists. Bruce has one goal in three games.
“Bruce plays with a lot of jam in his game,” Neufeld explained. “That’s what we really like about him. At this point in the season, a lot of the roster changes are just fine-tuning. We think he can be the type of piece that really puts this team over the top.”
To make room for the pair on the roster, forward Rob Johnson and defenceman Ryan Markovic were dealt to the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, though Markovic was immediately dealt back to the BCHL, to the Coquitlam Express.
In a separate deal, the Eagles sent blue-liner Trent Huitema to the Prince George Spruce Kings.