The Eagles got back into the W column this past Sunday with a big 4-3 win over the visiting Coquitlam Express. It's the same opponent coming right back to the South Surrey Arena this evening, so before that game starts, how 'bout some stray thoughts on the last one?
- I mentioned last week that Ben Vikich might be the straw that stirs the drink on the Eagles at the moment, as the team seems to succeed when he finds the back of the net, and he tends to score when he's playing the physical game that was expected of him prior to the year. Vikich is still a player of the utmost importance on this club, and the offense that he and Chase McMurphy are creating together certainly a big reason why the Eagles 3-1-0-1 in their last five games, but...
- More and more it seems the team's heartbeat up front is Joe Drapluk. Drapluk's four goals on the year have come in critical moments to either win the game in overtime or give his team the emotional lift they might be lacking to keep hope alive in the third period. That was certainly the case on Sunday against Coquitlam, where the Eagles fell behind 3-2 in the third period and got a big goal from Drapluk to lock things at 3. It wasn't the forceful exclamation point that his goal in Langley last Wednesday might have been, but it was exactly what the team needed, from the guy who has given this club a much-needed shot in the arm several times already early in the year.
- It was the other Drapluk who deserves some time in the spotlight after Sunday's game however, as defenseman Brian's point-blasts set up both Vikich's goal to restore the lead in the second period, as well as McMurphy's OT winner. From my vantage point in the press box it seemed like Brian put enough heat on his shot to beat Coquitlam's Pierce Dushenko clean, but whether McMurphy tipped it home or jammed in the immediate rebound, it was the captain who won the game. The Drapluks' impact on the game was massive however, combining for three points on three separate goals -- Joe's tying goal, and Brian's two key primary assists.
- The only goal in the game a Drapluk didn't factor in on was Darius Davidson's to open the scoring 2:02 into the first, a snipe blasted from just above the right circle. It was Davidson's first goal since opening night against Penticton, and whether he'd scored or not it was his best game of the year, a noticeable player making things happen both offensively as well as picking off pucks and winning battles in the neutral zone. When he plays the way he did on Sunday, he's a difference maker for this club. Like a lot of young guys adjusting to their first full year in Junior A however, he's still working on consistency. It will come, and when it does: look out.
- If Brian Drapluk deserves a good deal of credit on the Vikich and McMurphy markers, then credit as well to Quinn Lenihan on setting up the play that led to Joe Drapluk's tying goal. Davidson factored into the scoring on that one as well, picking up the puck in the neutral ice and feeding it into the middle for Lenihan. Lenihan muscled his way into the zone and carried the puck all the way down the left-wing boards before feeding out front for Drapluk. It was a strong bit of possession and a nice show of strength from another guy still looking for overall consistency, and while he was shuffled off the top line in the game's third period, it's that kind of play that shows he does belong up top with McMurphy and Vikich. In fact, that play might even be why it's where he finds himself once again for tonight's action.
- Fact is, the Eagles never should have found themselves trailing in this game, nevermind requiring overtime to win it. They were the superior team for the bulk of the contest, but couldn't find a way to close out either of the first two periods without surrendering a late goal. In the first, it was an incredible effort from Express D-man Daniel Fritz with 28.8 seconds to go. In the second, Coquitlam got a powerplay goal from Dan Lange with 0.8 seconds on the clock, a shot right off the face-off just after the penalty had been called. The Fritz goal deserves compliments. The Lange one was just unfortunate, however. That's not faulting the goaltender Christian Short in the slightest, but when you're taking a late faceoff with less than three seconds on the board, odds are generally slim to none that the puck will wind up in the net before the horn sounds. Like I said: unfortunate.
- You may find yourself undeservedly trailing however when you get nothing from your special teams, and that's again what happened to the Eagles on Sunday. They had a lengthy 5-on-3 PP in the first period which saw many of their best scoring chances of the game. They generated shots and tremendous chances, but couldn't get a goal. The powerplay has improved significantly since the team acquired defensemen Zane Schartz and Andy Chugg, but it's still not helping the team as often as it should be.
- In the end, however, a win is a win, and it doesn't matter how you get it so long as you do. Tonight's rematch should be interesting, if only to see if the Express show any better with a bit more rest. They came into the last game having already played two games over the course the weekend on Friday and Saturday. That's the position the Eagles find themselves in tonight, with games in Victoria and Nanaimo on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Surrey might be a tired bunch by the time they face the Clippers on Sunday. The win should be easier to come by here this evening, and that's exactly why the Eagles need to get it.