The new-look Surrey Eagles got off to a roaring start on the weekend, winning their first two games of the BC Hockey League season – in hostile territory, no less.
The Eagles – with an almost entirely new roster and a new head coach in Cam Keith – earned road victories Friday and Saturday over the Prince George Spruce Kings, who are the defending BCHL champions and finished last season as the No. 2 junior ‘A’ team in Canada. In the season-opener Friday, the Birds won 4-2, and came back 24 hours later and won 4-3 in overtime.
On Friday, the Eagles fell behind 1-0 midway through the first period, as Prince George’s Finlay Williams energized the crowd of more than 1,200 fans with the first goal of the season, but the slim lead lasted only six minutes, when Surrey’s Adamo Santia knotted the game at 1-1 after his shot deflected off the stick of Spruce King goalie Jett Alexander and went into the net.
The visitors took a stranglehold on the game in the middle period, with Carter King and Hudson Schandor – both new to the team this season – each scoring to give Surrey a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes of play. In the third, the Kings cut the deficit in half when Williams scored his second of the game just past the 12-minute mark, and the game stayed 3-2 until Surrey forward Christophe Tellier – acquired this summer from the Wenatchee Wild – slid a puck into the empty net to secure the win.
Thomas Scarfone, yet another newcomer to the Eagles’ nest, earned the win with 31 saves.
Scarfone got the night off for Game 2, as the Eagles went with rookie Cal Schell between the pipes. The 18-year-old Burlington, Ont. native was equally as strong as his colleague, stopping 30 shots on goal. None of those shots came in the overtime frame, however, as Surrey kept the home team at bay while peppering Alexander with three shots in 29 seconds, before Holden Katzalay – a rare returnee from last season – potted the winning marker on a rebound.
Tellier, Santia and defenceman Brett Bliss rounded out the scoring for Surrey. Bliss scored with less than four minutes to go in the third period to send the game into overtime.
“The boys showed a lot of character, and never wavered, especially in the third period,” Keith said.
Though the sample size – just two games out of 58 – is small, the results can’t be viewed as anything but positive for the Eagles, especially when compared to last season. Last September, the Eagles – still adjusting to a new coach after Brandon West left the team just a few weeks before – began the season with five straight losses, and just two wins in their first nine games.
In a post published to the Eagles’ official website, assistant coach Brad Tobin – who was on the staff during last season – described this year’s opening weekend as “a breath of fresh air.”
“There’s definitely belief in this room, already. It’s fun to be a part of and (we’ll) see where it goes from here.”
With their first northern road trip out of the way, the Eagles will return to South Surrey Arena this week for their home opener, which is set for Friday night against the division rival Coquitlam Express. Puck drop is 7 p.m. It’s the only game of the weekend for the squad, who head right back out on the road the next week, for a two-game trip to Vancouver Island.