It’s been another tough start to the hockey season for Surrey Knights, but the team’s on-ice leaders are optimistic about better things to come.
“This team is definitely better than last year, I can see that, and it’s a talented group of guys in there,” said forward Evandeep Purewal, named captain of the Pacific Junior Hockey League team a couple weeks ago.
“And it’s a better mindset as well, with the new rink and everything, the nice facility we have now,” he added. “It’s a really beautiful place to play hockey.”
The new scenery at North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex gave the team some jump out of the gate, with a home-opener against Port Moody Panthers that went to overtime. The Knights fell 3-2 in the extra frame.
Since that single point earned on Sept. 5, the squad has gone winless in September, in 10 games.
Of late, a three-games-in-four-nights schedule saw the Knights lose 1-0 at home to Abbotsford on Thursday (Sept. 26), followed by 8-1 and 10-2 road losses to Ridge Meadows and Mission, respectfully.
When the Now-Leader caught up with Purewal and his assistant captains early last week, the mood was upbeat as the team prepared for a midweek practice.
“Last season it took us about half the season just to come close to winning a game, and this year we almost got a win in the very first game, which went to overtime here and it could have gone either way because of the way the boys were playing,” Purewal noted.
The Knights will practice three times a week this season under new head coach Gerry Leiper.
“Last year we had just one practice a week, so right there that’s going to be better for us,” Purewal said of the team’s on-ice development time.
While the Surrey-raised Purewal will wear the ‘C’ on his chest this season, the assistant captains are Malik Dhaliwal and Ben Wasmuth, with an additional ‘A’ worn by both Drew Williams (for home games) and Bradley Collins (on the road).
“Williams and Collins were tied in votes among the players,” Leiper noted, “so we want to make sure they get a chance at being an assistant captain.”
On the ice, Purewal and Williams are leading the way with three goals and two assists apiece, with rookie Navkarn Gill adding a goal and four assists for a share of the team points lead.
In goal, returning netminder Naveen Kainth has faced 277 shots in his nine games played.
Purewal joined the Knights from White Rock Whalers early last season, in a trade.
“He’s a big guy, he’s fast and he scores goals,” Leiper said of his captain. “He developed with us and figured out the league. He’s playing great, but he got injured – he’s nursing a shoulder injury. He’s not a Band-Aid, he’s battling through it.”
In conversation, Purewal talked about a hockey path that took him from Surrey to Ontario to Alberta and back to Surrey.
“I started playing in Grade 7 – second-year Peewee, so I got a late start,” he explained. “I played in Surrey until Midget second-year and then I went to Ontario for about two months to play Junior A there, and then got dropped down and went to Alberta to play Junior B. I could have stayed in Alberta but decided to come back to B.C. to study at SFU and also play hockey still.”
Purewal, who’ll turn 20 in a couple weeks, is studying criminology at university, as a second-year student.
“I always wanted to be a lawyer, so we’ll see where that goes afterward,” he said.
“This might be my last year of hockey, so I want to make the most of it,” Purewal added. “I would like to play university hockey at home, and if I got the chance I’d take it – it’s really high-level hockey. So I’m playing the best I can this year and we’ll see what happens after that. I’m going to school right now and working, so there are opportunities away from hockey, which I love playing but at the end of the day, it’s just a game.”
Purewal said the Knights have a goal of earning at least 10 wins this season.
“I can see that happening – we’re practicing hard,” he said. “Last year, it was a lot tougher, because the rink (at North Surrey Recreation Centre) wasn’t very good and it was tough to play in there. The room was small and we had, like, only one shower for all the players. But this is different, and it feels different. The team is a lot better and we’re feeling good.”