Eagles win once to end preseason

Surrey will open BC Hockey League season Friday at South Surrey Arena against the Langley Rivermen.

The Surrey Eagles finished off the BC Hockey League preseason schedule on the weekend, defeating a old rival while losing to a new one.

On Friday night at South Surrey Arena, the Birds edged their Mainland Division rival Coquitlam Express, 4-2, and a day later, wrapped up the exhibition schedule with a 4-1 loss to the BCHL’s newest team, Washington’s Wenatchee Wild, formerly of the U.S.-based North American Hockey League.

The win over Coquitlam was the Eagles’ first of the year – the team lost its first two preseason games, both against the Chilliwack Chiefs,  two weekends ago.

But despite the 1-3 preseason record, Eagles’ head coach Blaine Neufeld was excited with the improvements he saw through the four games, and was especially pleased with his squad’s effort last weekend, considering the team sat a few of its top players in an effort to get one last look at players still vying for a spot on the roster.

“The games were very good, and I thought our performance was very solid,” he said. “We played well in both games, and Wenatchee is a very good team. They’re adjusting to a new league, but they play a very fast game.”

With the team’s season opener on the horizon – the Eagles host the Langley Rivermen Friday night at South Surrey Arena – Neufeld was encouraged by his team’s defensive improvements, specifically. As well, new starting goaltender Justin LaForest, who was acquired in the offseason and has an RBC national title to his credit, comes “as advertised, if not better,” Neufeld said.

“We really made a mandate this summer of bringing in some goaltending and some defenceman,” he added. “We’ve done that – they’re big, they’re tough, and we think we’ve really improved. We’re ready to go.”

Before Friday’s opener, the team will have to make two more cuts, Neufeld said – one defenceman and one forward.

The team had an off-day Sunday, and Monday gathered together away from the rink to do the Grouse Grind. Neufeld said the next few days would be used to have a few more practices, and while the team avoided any serious injuries during training camp and the preseason, the week would also give some players the chances to heal “a few bumps and bruises.”

Friday’s game starts at 7 p.m. at South Surrey Arena, and the Eagles play a second home tilt Sunday afternoon, at 4 p.m., against Coquitlam.