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Surrey Eagles edge Express for first win of BCHL season

Holden Cardinal scores in sixth round of shootout to lead Eagles to victory
Surrey Eagles forward Jacob Bonkowski scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s loss to the Coquitlam Express. (Garrett James photo) Surrey Eagles forward Jacob Bonkowski scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s loss to the Coquitlam Express. (Garrett James photo)

The Surrey Eagles got their first win of the BC Hockey League season Sunday in South Surrey, after a 4-3 shootout victory over the visiting Langley Rivermen.

Prior to Sunday’s game, the Eagles – who were among the league’s very best team during last spring’s pod season, finishing with a 17-2-1 record (win-loss-overtime loss) – had gone winless in the first three games of the season, including a 7-4 defeat at the hands of the Coquitlam Express Saturday night.

Two weekends ago, the Eagles opened the season with losses to both the Rivermen and Express. After the home-opening loss, Eagles head coach Cam Keith called it “a learning experience for some of our younger guys on what the league is like and how hard our guys will have to work to be successful.”

The Eagles currently have one of the youngest rosters in the entire league – led by White Rock 16-year-old Grayden Slipec, a highly touted prospect who last week committed to play at the University of North Dakota.

On Sunday, the offence was led by winger Cole Galata, who finished with a goal and an assist, while other goals were scored by Jake Bongo and Michael Abgrall. Both Galata and Abgrall’s tallies came in the final 10 minutes of the third period, with the home team trailing by pair.

Neither team scored in overtime, and the shootout went six skaters deep with no goals, until Surrey’s Holden Cardinal fired home the winner.

Eli Pulver got the win in net for the Eagles, stopping 31 of 34 shots, in addition to six in the shootout.

The game was also highlighted by an all-female officiating crew – the first time ever for a Canadian junior ‘A’ hockey league, according to the BCHL.

A day earlier against Coquitlam, the Eagles got off to a great start – brothers Jacob and Grayden Slipec each scored in the first four minutes of the game to give the Birds a 2-0 lead – but the Express rallied the rest of the way with three straight first-period goals to take the led.

Jacob Bonkowski scored for the Eagles before the first intermission to cap the six-goal first period, but the Express outscored Surrey 4-1 over the final 40 minutes. Ben Fontaine scored the final goal for the Eagles.

“It was a game where we let our emotions get the better of us at times. We were a little too high in the beginning, and I think we crashed once they scored and we went into a shell, which affected our play,” said Keith.

“The lesson with this young group is to stay even-keeled and keep a next-shift mentality and hopefully it’s a learning experience for this team.”

Surrey hits the road this week to take part of the BCHL Showcase, in which all the league’s teams will play games in Chilliwack. On Thursday, the Eagles will play the Penticton Vees, and on Saturday they’ll face the Trail Smoke Eaters.

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