The Surrey Eagles have made their way into the win column, thanks to a third-period push Sunday against the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The Eagles, who sport a 1-3 record through the first two weeks of the BC Hockey League regular season, edged the division-rival Kings 4-1 at South Surrey Arena, after a three-goal outburst in the final frame broke what until that point had been a 1-1 deadlock.
The win broke a three-game losing streak for the Birds, who’d lost another home tilt Friday, 6-2 to the Penticton Vees.
On Friday, the two clubs were tied 1-1 after the opening 20 minutes – Chris Gerrie opened the scoring for the Vees, but Surrey’s Matthew Hermary replied 15 minutes later – but in the second, Penticton scored three times in a span of 2:53 to blow the game open.
“It was a good weekend for us,” said Eagles coach Blaine Neufeld.
“We came out with intensity, and I thought we played well against Penticton, except for about a three-minute stretch where we fell asleep – and against a highly skilled team like that, it’ll cost you.”
On Sunday, Matthew Hermary gave the Eagles a 2-1 lead just three minutes into the third, and less than three minutes later, Darius Davidson scored a power-play marker to give his team a two-goal cushion.
At the end of the period, Davidson scored again, this time into an empty net. The second-year forward leads the team – and is tied for third in the BCHL – with four goals in four games.
“Darius is playing really well for us. We look to him to score and so far, so good,” Neufeld said.
Paul McAvoy scored Surrey’s other goal, a shorthanded effort near the end of the second period.
Neufeld gave credit to his troops for rebounding after the Friday defeat, and said the idea of going winless through the first two weekends of the schedule was not a palatable one.
“I was happy with our leadership group. The guys held a players-only meeting on Sunday morning – they didn’t want to let things drag on, and were desperate to get a win.
“They came out and played well. We took a few too many penalties, maybe, but five-on-five I thought we controlled the play… you don’t want to let a close game like that slip away.”
In addition to his team’s offensive output on Sunday – after his team’s opening weekend, Neufeld had expressed concern that his team wasn’t burying their chances – the second-year bench boss was also impressed with his two netminders.
Daniel Davidson was between the pipes Sunday, stopping 41 of 42 shots to earn the win, while 20-year-old Justin LaForest – one of the team’s marquee off-season additions – stopped 32 shots against Penticton, despite giving up six goals.
Neufeld suggested LaForest – who won an RBC Cup national title last year with the Portage Terriers – has simply been victim of some bad luck early in the season.
“Justin has been tremendous for us, and Daniel’s played great, too. But if we scored as much with Justin in net as we have so far for Daniel, I think we’d probably be 3-1 instead of 1-3. He’s been great,” Neufeld said.
The Eagles – and the rest of the league – now shift focus on this week’s BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack. In previous years, the event – created to gives scouts the chance to see all the league’s top players in one place – has been held on opening weekend, but was shifted to the season’s third weekend this year.
“I think it’s better to have it a few games in. You know you’re team a little bit better by that point, and guys are playing better,” Neufeld said.
On Thursday at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre, the Eagles will face off against the Merritt Centennials, and on Friday will play the Powell River Kings.
Neufeld didn’t expect the high-profile nature of the event to adversely affect his squad
“We’re very focused, so I don’t think something like this – having a lot of scouts watching – is going to bother them,” he said.
“We’re ready to go. We want to re-establish ourselves as a premier team in the Mainland Division, and a good performance here will go a long way to helping us do that.”