It wasn’t the end to an otherwise successful month that the Surrey Eagles were hoping for, but the BC Hockey League team still picked up a valuable point in the standings after an overtime loss to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday night.
The loss – a 4-3 defeat – came 24 hours after the Eagles, who had won six of nine games in January before the two-game road trip, dropped a high-scoring 7-4 affair to the Trail Smoke Eaters at Cominco Arena.
By picking up just one of a possible four points on the trip, the Birds dropped out of a first-place tie in the Mainland Division, and now sit second with 55 points, and a record of 24-17-5-2 (win-loss-overtime loss-tie). They’re three points back of the Prince George Spruce Kings, and a single point up on the Langley Rivermen.
Regardless of how the final 10 games of the regular season go, the Eagles will be in the post-season for the first time in four years, having clinched a spot last weekend. If the season were to end now, they’d square off against the Rivermen in the first round.
Eagles’ forward Ryan Brushett led the way in a losing effort against the Silverbacks, assisting on the game’s opening goal – scored by Caige Sterzer – and then scoring a pair himself, but it was not enough to overpower the Okanagan squad, who came back from a 3-2 deficit in the third period to win.
After Jeff Stewart scored to give Surrey a 3-2 lead with 59 seconds left in the second period, Brandon Whistle tied the game for the home team 4:26 into the third, and then scored the overtime winner 2:15 into the extra frame.
The game nearly didn’t even get to OT, as the Silverbacks pressed the visitors in the latter stages of regulation time, but on two occassions were stymied by Eagles’ goalie Mario Cavaliere. With just 17.5 seconds left in the third, John Wesley was whistled for a high-sticking minor – which carried over into overtime – but the Eagles were able to kill it off successfully, but Whistle scored soon after when both squads were at even strength.
Friday’s game wasn’t quite as close, as the hometown Smoke Eaters – playing in front of an announced crowd of more than 1,800 fans – peppered Cavaliere with 47 shots on goal, including a unsuccessful penalty-shot attempt by Andre Ghantous.
The two teams traded goals at a furious pace in the first frame, with each team scoring three times before the first-intermission buzzer. Matthew Campese scored twice for Surrey, while Wesley picked up his 33rd of the year.
In the second, Trail took the lead with two unanswered goals – from Tyler Ghirardosi and Blaine Caton – but Dryden Michaud replied with his first goal as an Eagle less than four minutes later to bridge the gap to 5-4.
In the third, Carter Jones scored his 15th goal of the season to extend the lead to 6-4, then in the final minute, Ghirardosi tacked on an empty-netter to give the home side a three-goal cushion.
The Eagles don’t have much time to dwell on their winless weekend, however, as they play a rare midweek, day game Thursday at South Surrey Arena. The game – a noon puck drop against the visiting Coquitlam Express – is what the team has dubbed a “School Day” game, and the stands will be filled with students from three Semiahmoo Peninsula elementary schools – Ray Shepherd, Bayridge and H.T. Thrift.
Tickets for the students have been provided by the game-day sponsor, Hall Constructors, Eagles general manager Blaine Neufeld told Peace Arch News. The game will be the Eagles’ third sellout of the season, he added.
“It should be a ton of fun,” he said.
Eagles’ forward Desi Burgart is bound for the college-hockey ranks, after inking a scholarship with NCAA Div. 1 Quinnipiac University last week.
Burgart, a Penticton native, is in his third season in the BCHL, and second with the Eagles. This season, he had 17 goals and 39 points in 43 games, playing primarily on the line with Wesley and Ty Westgard.
The 19-year-old forward joins a list of college-committed Eagles that includes Jeff Stewart (Colgate), Chase Danol (Bowling Green), captain Jordan Robert (Clarkson) and Cory Babichuk (RPI).