The Surrey Eagles managed just one win in three games on the weekend, two of which came on home ice.
On Friday, the Birds celebrated Valentine’s Day with a convincing 5-1 win over the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks. But the next night at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre, Surrey failed to make it two in a row after what appeared to be a victory-in-the-making over the last-place Chiefs went sideways in the final minute and collapsed into a 5-3 loss.
The Eagles capped the weekend Sunday afternoon with a 5-2 home-ice defeat at the hands of the Victoria Grizzlies.
But of the two losses, the toughest to swallow, head coach Peter Schaefer said, was Saturday against the Chiefs.
With Surrey up 3-2 late in the third period, Chilliwack tied the game with 56 seconds left – Matthieu Tibbet scored on a play that Schaefer thought should have been whistled dead and a penalty dealt to the Chiefs when Chilliwack’s Carter Cochrane took out Surrey forward Nathan Renouf.
“We thought there should’ve been a penalty there – Renouf was face-down on the ice,” Schaefer explained.
After the tying goal, Schaefer and others on the bench voiced their displeasure with referee Nick Swaine to the point that he gave the team a bench penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Chiefs scored the go-ahead go 25 seconds later, and tacked on another 13 seconds later to put the game out of reach before the final buzzer.
“I don’t know what it is, but it just seems like anything can happen when we play Chilliwack,” Schaefer said.
Jonaf Renouf scored Surrey’s first goal, and Joseph Drapluk had the other two – one shorthanded and one on the power play.
Surrey goalie Bo Didur was between the pipes, and was tagged with the loss while stopping 28 shots on net.
Sunday’s game against Victoria was easier to deal with, despite the loss, Schaefer said.
Playing their third game in as many days, Surrey was also forced to play with Braeden Russell, Michael McEachern and Anthony Conti, who were injured against Chiliwack the night before.
As a result, the Eagles played the BC Hockey League’s top team with four affiliate players in the lineup – Karsten Seidel from the North Delta Devils and Matt Bradley, Eric Callegari and Paul Savage from the major-midget Valley West Hawks – with the latter three coming straight from one of their own games.
Veteran forward Colton Mackie – who has been in and out of the lineup with a hand injury most of the season – was also forced to dress, though Schaefer said he “played sparingly.”
“We were short-staffed, and had some tired guys – especially the (affiliate players) – but we played the top team in the league hard, and we played fairly well,” Schaefer said.
Darius Davidson and Nathan Renouf scored for the Eagles in the loss.
Devon Fordyce got the start in net, stopping 27 Victoria shots.
The lone bright spot for Surrey – aside from the moral victory of playing tough against the Grizzlies – came Friday, when the Birds jumped all over Salmon Arm en route to the 5-1 win.
Surrey took a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to goals from Chase McMurphy and Jonah Renouf, and captain Danton Heinen added a paid of power-play goals in the first 11 minutes of the second period to double the lead.
One minute after Heinen’s second goal made it 4-0, affiliate player Nigel Swab scored his first-ever BCHL goal, with fellow AP player Ty Westgard – a South Surrey native – adding an assist.
Alex Gillies scored the Silverbacks’ lone goal, with 1:06 remaining in the second period, and neither team scored in the final frame.
The Eagles have three games left on their regular season schedule – a three-games-in-three-days road trip this weekend on Vancouver Island – before they get a week off to prepare for the post-season.
As they have for the entire second half of the season, the team sits fourth in the Mainland Division, seven points back of the Coquitlam Express, and will face the first-place Langley Rivermen in the first round of playoffs.