Neither another multi-point effort from leading scorer Johnny Wesley nor a 37-save performance from goaltender Daniel Davidson was enough for the Surrey Eagles Tuesday evening at South Surrey Arena, as the BC Hockey League squad was unable to squeeze a point visiting West Kelowna Warriors.
Playing a rare midweek contest on the heels of a road trip to Prince George – the Birds and Spruce Kings split a two-game showdown – the Eagles opened Tuesday’s game strong, scoring twice in the first four minutes of the game – all courtesy of the team’s top line.
Desi Burgart, on the power-play, opened the scoring just 56 seconds after the opening puck-drop – with assists to Wesley and Ty Westgard – and Wesley followed suit less than three minutes later with his league-best 11th goal of the season. Burgart and Westgard picked up helpers on the second marker.
The two goals came on just three shots, which chased Kelowna starting goalkeeper Cole Demers from the net. He was replace by Nik Amundrud, who stopped all 31 shots the rest of the way.
With the backup goalie between the pipes, the Warriors got on the board midway through the first on a goal from Jared Marino to cut the lead to 2-1, and Bennett Norlin scored twice in the second period to give the visiting squad a 3-2 lead, which they held onto through the scoreless third period.
Despite only firing six shots on net in their two-goal first frame, Surrey still managed 34 shots on goal in the contest, but despite seven power-play opportunities, were only able to capitalize once – one Burgart’s opener. On the flip side, the team was strong on the penalty kill, holding the Warriors off the board of their five extra-man opportunities.
Last weekend, the Eagles travelled north to Prince George – for the second time this season, already – and edged the Spruce Kings 3-2 Friday before losing the rematch Saturday, 4-3.
With one win in their last three, the Eagles sit in a tie for third-place in the five-team Mainland Division with a record of 3-7-1-1 (win-loss-tie-overtime loss). The Chilliwack Chiefs also have eight points – but have played two fewer games – while the Spruce Kings lead the division with 14 points and just three losses in regulation time.
“Still frustrated, but it’s a work in progress,” Eagles head coach Brandon West said of the team’s recent losses, all of which have come by just one-goal margins.
“Getting a split on the road in a tough environment, as a coach, you’ll take that. But we also… could’ve had that second one too, if it wasn’t for a blown assignment (on the Kings’ winning goal).
“We’re in tight games, and we’re learning how to win, but we just to start (doing it).”
While the results haven’t quite been there, West was buoyed by the fact that the team is playing well, especially offensively. He expects that eventually, those chances are going to end up in the back of the opposition net. The team is routinely firing 30-plus shots on net, and the scoring opportunities are there, he noted.
“When you look at our power play, our percentage (of success) isn’t where we’d like it to be right now… but we’re getting some Grade A chances, and when you’re getting those chances, you know you’re doing something right,” he said.
West was also complimentary of the Eagles’ top line of Wesley, Westgard and Burgart – the trio are first-through-third in team scoring and all inside the top-20 in the entire BCHL – though he said the goal moving forward is to become “a four-line team” that can get consistent contributions from everyone up and down the lineup.
The Eagles are at home this weekend, beginning today (Friday) when they host the Spruce Kings at South Surrey Arena for the fifth team already this season.
On Sunday afternoon, Surrey hosts the visiting Victoria Grizzlies. Puck drops at 4 p.m.