On the night the Surrey Eagles raised their championship banner, they got burned by a player they dealt away just before their title run.
Mason Blacklock – whom the Eagles traded to Vernon last January in exchange for Adam Tambellini – scored twice in the third period Friday at South Surrey Arena, to lead the Vernon Vipers to a 4-1 win.
Vernon went up 1-0 on the home team before some fans even found their seats – Mark Hamilton beat Victor Adamo just 1:33 into the game.
In the second, the Vipers extended the lead to 2-0 on a Dexter Dancs power-play goal, before Surrey captain Brett Mulcahy cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the third period when he deposited a rebound – from a Colton Mackie shot – past Vernon netminder Austin Smith.
But with the Eagles pressing for the equalizer, Blacklock, a Semiahmoo Minor Hockey Association alum, went to work, scoring twice in the final five minutes, his second goal coming shorthanded.
“I didn’t think we played that badly, but we had some (defensive) zone breakdowns, things we have to fix,” said Eagles head coach Peter Schaefer.
In the rematch Saturday in Vernon, Schaefer’s crew was better – offensively, at least – and managed to outgun the Vipers 7-4, though the score was skewed slightly by two late empty-net goals.
The first period was an offensive slugfest, as the Vipers scored twice in the first seven minutes – Michael McNicholas and Blacklock lit the lamp – before Surrey responded with three straight goals.
Jonah Renouf and Nic Pierog scored power-play goals two minutes apart, and Ryan Fraser-Lee scored at even strength before the first intermission.
In the second period, McNicholas and Renouf traded goals, and the third opened with former Eagle Demico Hannoun – who was dealt to Vernon in the off-season to complete the Tambellini trade – scoring just 1:25 into the period to make it 5-4. With the Vernon net empty, Surrey’s Mitchell Fyffe and Pierog scored shorthanded empty-net goals to secure the win.
And though the victory salvaged the weekend for the Eagles, Schaefer insisted there was plenty to work on still, and his team wouldn’t be able to outscore its problems later in the season.
“It’s nice to score seven goals, so for now, it’s good, but later in the season, you really need to play playoff-style hockey,” he said. “We have to work on our defensive-zone play, for sure.”
In an effort to shore up that part of the team’s game, Schaefer has made a handful of roster moves in the last week.
Late last month, he brought in defenceman Phillipe Johansson, a late cut of the United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm. And prior to the two-game set with Vernon, Surrey picked up 19-year-old blue-liner Kale Bennett, also from the USHL, and forward Alex Whitwarm, who was cut loose by the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs last week.
To make room on the roster, a pair of players, Kade Pilton and Brayden Park – both of whom had been suspended by the club – were released. Pilton, acquired in the off-season, had refused to report to the South Surrey BCHL team, and is now playing Junior B on Vancouver Island. Park left the Eagles last month and returned home to Saskatchewan.
Schaefer said his efforts to bolster his young blue line are not finished – he hopes to add another veteran player this week.
The season may only be a few weeks old, but Eagles forward Braeden Russell has already secured a NCAA scholarship.
The 20-year-old forward will play next season at Brown University.