Surrey Eagles’ forward Desi Burgart (middle) gives chase as Salmon Arm Silverbacks goaltender Nic Tallarico – a Surrey native and former Valley West Hawk – plays the puck behind the net during Thursday’s game at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack. (Garrett James photo)

Surrey Eagles fall in BCHL Showcase showdown

South Surrey junior hockey squad picks up one point in two games at Chillwack-hosted event

Luck was not on the side of the Surrey Eagles at the BC Hockey League Showcase over the weekend, as the South Surrey-based squad dropped both its games to Interior Division foes, including once in overtime.

On Thursday morning at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre, the Birds opened the four-day event – at which all BCHL teams play twice, giving university and pro scouts alike the opportunity to watch multiple teams in one city – with a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

The team then had two days off before closing the tournament Sunday afternoon, losing 7-2 to the Trail Smoke Eaters. After picking up a lone point for the OT defeat, Surrey sits fourth in the BCHL’s Mainland Division with a 1-3-1-1 record (win-loss-overtime loss-tie).

Thursday’s loss was a tough one to swallow for the Peninsula crew, as they outshot their Okanagan counterparts 48-18 in the game.

Surrey peppered Salmon Arm netminder Nic Tallarico – a former Valley West Hawk – with 20 shots in the first period, but managed just one goal near the end of the period, off the stick of Eagles’ rookie winger Mackenzie Merriman, a South Surrey native.

“I thought we controlled the entire game,” Eagles head coach Brandon West told Peace Arch News.

“We just didn’t score when we had the opportunity, especially in the first period… we have to find ways to put teams away when we have the chance.”

For, the Surrey-born Tallarico – who backstopped the Hawks’ championship team in 2015/16 – the 46-save performance was a big rebound effort, after struggling earlier in the season in a pair of Salmon Arm losses.

“Tallarico is a really good kid and has done well here in the past. We’re hoping he returns to form but that clearly wasn’t his best effort. He knows that,” said Salmon Arm head coach Scott Atkinson after a loss last week, prior to Tallarico’s Showcase performance.

The Silverbacks tied the game in the second period when Rhett Kingston was able to put the puck behind Surrey goalie Alex Horawski, and Salmon Arm’s Marcus Mitchell made it 2-1 six minutes into the third period. Eagles captain Jordan Robert tied the game 10 minutes later, however, and the game was into extra time.

Each team had one shot on goal in the overtime session, and Salmon Arm escaped with the win on Austin Chorney’s first goal of the season, which came off a long solo rush down the right wing.

Offence was tough to come by for the Eagles Sunday, as well, though unlike Thursday’s affair, the team wasn’t able to fire nearly 50 shots on net; the Smokies outshot Surrey 35-31.

The first period was a draw, both on the scoreboard and the shot clock, with neither team beating the opposing goalie on 11 shots apiece.

The second frame, however, was another story, as the Smoke Eaters took control and scored four unanswered markers from four different players, led by the league’s current leading scorer, Ross Armour, who scored the first goal of the game 3:37 into the period. Armour finished the game with a goal and two assists, to give him a league-best 12 points through the first six games of the season.

Trailing 4-0 after 40 minutes, the Eagles responded early in the third when Merriman again found the back of the net – his second career goal – with assists going to the team’s leading point-getter John Wesley and Robert.

Merriman’s marker was followed less than seven minutes later by a goal from a another rookie, left-winger Chase Danol, who was the last Eagles to touch the puck after a wrist shot from just inside the blue line deflected at least twice on the way to the Trail net and popped over the shoulder of Smoke Eaters’ goalie Tanner Marshall.

The comeback attempt was short-lived, however, as Trail answered Danol’s goal with one of their own just 23 seconds later, to increase the lead to 5-2. Surrey coach Brandon West elected to pull the goalie for the extra attacker with 4:30 remaining in the period, which led to another Trail goal to restore the four-goal lead.

The Kootenay crew added one more tally before the final horn.

“We came out and had a real good first period… we had a ton of Grade-A chances, but we just didn’t find the back of the net, and they’re a very good, tight-checking team,” West said of Trail.

After back-to-back weekends on the road – the team was in Prince George earlier this month, prior to two games in Chilliwack – the Eagles will make one more short trip to Merritt for a game Wednesday against the Centennials, before returning home to South Surrey Arena this weekend for two games.

On Friday at 7 p.m., Surrey hosts the Prince George Spruce Kings, and on Sunday afternoon, the Vernon Vipers come to town for a 4 p.m. opening faceoff.

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