Penalties hurt the Surrey Eagles Saturday, as the BC Hockey League champions opened the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup with a 4-2 loss to the Brooks Bandits in Nanaimo.
The Bandits, the top team from the Alberta Junior Hockey League, twice took advantage of Eagle penalties with power-play goals, and added a third goal on a penalty shot en route to the tournament-opening win.
The Eagles, perhaps still riding the high of their Fred Page Cup championship earlier this month, had plenty of jump in the early stages of Saturday’s game against Brooks, generating a few good scoring chances, but it was the Bandits who scored first.
Brooks made it 1-0 late in the period when, during a goal-mouth scramble for a loose puck, Brandon Bruce fired the puck past Eagles’ netminder Michael Santaguida.
The second period is where the game got away from Surrey, in large part thanks to penalties.
With Colton Mackie in the penalty box for slashing, Brooks’ Mark Reners pounced on a rebound to extend the Albertans’ lead to 2-0. Then, just 1:28 later – this time with Demico Hannoun in the sin bin – the Bandits scored again, this time when R.J. Reed rifled a shot from the point that tipped off a Surrey stick and into the net.
The Eagles finally got on the board in the third period – on a power play of their own – when Brady Shaw chipped a rebound past Brooks’ goalie Michael Fredrick, who made 40 saves in the win.
Brooks regained its three-goal cushion 10 minutes later when Cam Maclise – the team’s leading scorer – scored on a penalty shot; he had been awarded the shot after he was hooked, while on a breakaway, by Eagles’ defenceman Devon Toews.
Drew Best scored in the game’s final minute to make it 4-2.
Heading into the tournament, Brooks was considered by many the favourite to win it, after a regular season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League that saw them lose just four times in regulation (53-4-3). Their power-play has been among the best in the country, too, clicking at nearly a 30 per cent clip during the season. By comparison, the Eagles’ power play during the BCHL season – which was among the league’s best – had an 18.4 per cent conversion rate.
However, a day after defeating the Eagles, they were blown out 7-2 by the host Nanaimo Clippers, who had sat idle for a month after being eliminated in the first round of BCHL playoffs.
Despite starting 0-1, there were positives to take from Saturday’s game. For starters, the Eagles managed 42 shots on net, and will look to continue that offensive momentum into their second game against the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Steinbach Pistons Monday night.
“We’re very excited, we’re happy to be here,” said Eagles defenceman Craig Wyzsomirski. “When we set a list of goals (at the start of the season), the Fred Page Cup was one, and (Westerns) was two. We’re excited to be here, and extremely focused.”