Surrey’s Jeffrey Stewart (left) collides with Langley’s Dominic Franco earlier this month.

Surrey Eagles lose to Express in pre-holiday tilt

Junior team off the ice until Jan. 1 game against Salmon Arm

A poor start to the game sunk the Surrey Eagles in the BC Hockey League team’s final game before the Christmas break.

On Friday, in front of a sparse crowd at Coquitlam’s Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre – announced attendance was just 259 – the Eagles gave up five first-period goals en route to an 8-2 loss to the Coquitlam Express.

The Eagles had no answer for the Coquitlam offence, though the Express did much of the damage on the power play, where they were 3-for-5. Two of the man-advantage goals came in the first period, as the home team built up its lead.

With a 5-0 lead after 20 minutes, Coquitlam scored twice more in the second before the Eagles were finally able to beat Express netminder Lawson Fenton, when Kurt Black scored on the power play.

Since being acquired by the Eagles from Trail, Black has been one of Surrey’s bright spots offensively, with 15 points in 14 games.

Paul McAvoy scored the Eagles’ second goal, an unassisted effort that came in the third period.

Justin LaForest – who has been among the BCHL’s busiest netminders since his return from injury two weeks ago – was tagged with the loss for the Eagles, and was chased from the net midway through the first frame, after Coquitlam went up 3-0.

Surrey now sits idle for the rest of the month, and doesn’t return to action until New Year’s Day, when they head to Salmon Arm to play the Silverbacks, who are second in the BCHL’s Interior Division with a 21-9-2-2 record (win-loss-tie-overtime loss).

Though they’ve had some encouraging moments of late – playing two close games against the powerhouse Wenatchee Wild, and earning a tie against the Langley Rivermen, to name a few – the Eagles still head into the holidays last in the BCHL, with just five victories in 34 games. They’re also last in goals scored with just 84, and have seen a few of their top offensive weapons – Darius Davidson, John Wesley and Ty Westgard  – either traded or leave for the Western Hockey League this month.

In their place, the team picked up defenceman Tyler Cooper as well as a pair of players, Hunter Kero and Rob Johnson, from the Kamloops Storm of the Kooteney International Junior Hockey League.

“We anticipate that our (new) group will redefine our team’s identity… and start having success,” Eagles’ head coach Blaine Neufeld said earlier this month.