As their record continues to hover around the .500 mark, the Surrey Eagles get set this week for one of the season’s premier events – the BC Hockey League Showcase.
For Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island teams, the two-day event runs Wednesday and Thursday at the Chilliwack Coliseum, while Interior Division squads will head to Penticton for games Friday and Saturday. This is the first time the league showcase – which gives pro and college scouts the chance to watch the league’s top players all in one place – has been held in two cities. In previous years, Chilliwack hosted the entire league.
On Wednesday, the Eagles, who sit with a 4-5 win-loss record, will play the Nanaimo Clippers in their showcase opener, and on Thursday they’ll square off against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, who are currently tied for top spot in the league with an 8-2 record.
The two games in Chilliwack mark a return to the Fraser Valley for Surrey Eagles head coach Cam Keith, who spent last season as an associate coach with the Chiefs before taking the job in South Surrey last summer. Thursday’s tilt with Cowichan is also a chance for the Eagles to exact a measure of revenge, after the Caps – who were playing their third game of the weekend – beat them 4-2 Sunday at South Surrey Arena.
“That’s the good part about it. We get to play them again very shortly and I think we proved to ourselves that they’re not a team that is so far ahead of us (that) we need to be intimidated,” Keith said in a post-game news release.
“It is the Showcase though. Everybody shows up for the Showcase and bring their best effort and this is a Cowichan team that was travelling and playing three games in three nights, and so they were tired. We expect them to come out with a better effort and hopefully we are going to match it. The first 20 minutes are going to be big for us, especially in that spotlight.”
The opening period was a struggle for the Birds on Sunday, as the visitors jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, first on a goal by Will Arquiett at 2:18 of the period, followed later in the frame by a marker from Brady Lynn. Cowichan increased its lead to 3-0 just 46 seconds into the second period before the Eagles got one back, off the stick of Christophe Tellier.
“The first period right now is the Achilles’ heel of this young Surrey Eagles team,” said Keith. “Tonight we came out kind of waiting to see what they were going to do, and then we had a couple mental errors.”
The teams traded goals in the third – which Hudson Schandor scoring his third of the season for Surrey – before the final horn sounded to give Cowichan the win.
The game was the polar opposite of the Eagles-Rivermen showdown held Saturday at Langley’s George Preston Recreation Centre, which saw Surrey win 7-1.
Surrey fell behind in that game, too – Langley’s Devin Leduc scored in the first to give the home team a lead after 20 minutes – but bounced back in a big way in the second, scoring five unanswered goals. Jason Lin scored his first of the season just over one minute in, and that goal was followed by tallies from Brett Bliss, Schandor, and a pair from leading scorer Holden Katzalay, who now has six through nine games this season.
In the third period, second-year forward Brandon Santa Juana scored his first goal of the season, and a rookie Sean Ramsay scored the first goal of his BCHL career less than three minutes later, on the power play.
Thomas Scarfone stopped 29 of 30 shots to earn the win in net for the Eagles.
Keith said the trio of Katzalay, Tellier and Schandor was the key to the team’s success.
“That whole line tonight was the best that we’ve seen from them all year,” the coach said. “They cashed in a few time and could have cashed in a few more and that’s a big plus for us. We need those big three guys going for us to be successful.”
A day earlier, it was the Rivermen who got the upper hand, shutting out the Eagles 3-0.
Once the BCHL Showcase wraps up Thursday, the Eagles get set for a weekend schedule that, oddly enough, involves another game in Chilliwack. The Eagles and Chiefs square off Saturday night at 7 p.m.