FROM THE BOOTH: Chilliwack 6 | 2 Surrey

The view from the rafters after Saturday's 6-2 loss at the hands of the Chilliwack Chiefs.

The view from the rafters after Saturday's 6-2 loss at the hands of the Chilliwack Chiefs.

Some notes from Saturday night's contest, the rematch between Surrey and Chilliwack 24 hours in the making. As I noted in the previous post, the Eagles were pretty eager to play spoiler in the Chiefs home-opener, having allowed Chilliwack to put a damper on the festivities Surrey's first home game the night before. This game, however, would not be quite as close:

  • Kudos to broadcasting colleague Kraig Krause with the call on those highlights from Saturday's action (though a quick correction: that's Ty Westgard with the goal for Surrey in the early-going.) The Prospera Centre plays host to the Showcase every year for a reason: it's a beautiful facility intended for the WHL, and with  that comes a jumbo-tron, and with that come pre-clipped video highlights of every game played in that barn. So, enjoy those -- or, given the result, grit your teeth through them.
     
  • That Friday's contest was as close as it was, no matter how things went the next night, does reflect nicely on the Eagles, even if moral victories don't count for anything in the standings. The most recent batch of CJHL national rankings has the Chiefs as the fourth-best Junior A team in Canada. They're a perfect 4-0 at the moment, with half of those wins coming at Surrey's expense, but at the very least the Eagles showed they're a capable dance partner.
     
  • And while Saturday's contest was nowhere near as closely matched as the previous night's action, it wasn't as lop-sided as the scoreboard would suggest either. Both Latrell Charleson and Jeeven Sidhu hit posts in the game, and some dangerous chances were turned aside by Aiden Pelino. Surrey is still looking for Win #1 on the season of course, but it has only evaded them by a matter of inches. Posts have not been kind to the Eagles thus far in the year, having hit one in both of their OT losses. You have to think that over the course of a season, those bounces start to balance out. Regression toward the mean works both ways, and right now the Eagles have been plain unlucky.
     
  • That said, they aren't getting many favours from their special teams at the moment. Last week I wrote on Chase McMurphy's prowess working the point with his team up a man. The Chiefs scouting team clearly saw what I did, as their penalty-killers took away the high option for McMurphy all night on Friday. His point blast made it through to Mitchell Datz maybe twice all night, with a wall of bodies blocking shots every time he let it go. On Friday night Surrey went 0-for-8 while up a man, and 1-for-7 on Satuday. Getting anything at all out of the power-play gives the Eagles a win on Friday night, and makes things significantly more interesting on Saturday. A Brian Drapluk heater from the line in the late stages of Saturday's action was the only PP shot to bulge the twine this weekend.
     
  • On the flipside, their penalty-killing has been very sharp. The Chiefs had three straight extra-man chances in the first period on Friday, and Surrey gave them absolutely nothing, barely even a shot. The Chiefs would go 2-for-6 on Saturday night, however, and that, combined with Surrey pinging posts, was the difference in the game.
     
  • Another big difference in this game: the Eagles have to expect and occasionally rely on show-stopping, super-human goaltending from Christian Short already in this young season. He was not bad in this game, and if you watch the highlights above he certainly had no chance on a couple of beautiful bang-bang passing plays. Both Chilliwack goals in the first period however are likely ones he'd like back, and has shown to be capable of stopping. Like I said last week though, it's unfair to expect any goaltender to be Superman every night. An average game should not spell doom and gloom, but Surrey's got a young, developing team whose margin for error at the moment is narrow.
     
  • They were also down one of their top defenders between Friday and Saturday, and that had to make a difference in the complexion of the game as well. Trevor MacLean sat on Saturday resting some swelling he caught blocking a shot Friday night, and the team compensated the loss by putting Sam Chatterley back on D. Chatterley, who was a wealth of experience playing as a defenseman over the years having only recently converted to forward, looked great there on Saturday. Charleson stepped up nicely into bigger minutes as well.
     
  • The most notably improved player in Saturday's action for Surrey however was Jeeven Sidhu. I mentioned earlier how a Sidhu point-shot caught the post, but where he seemed to struggle on Friday night against Chilliwack was along the wall. Board battles simply did not go his way against the Chiefs on the first go-round, but getting a second crack in a larger role Saturday, he shined. Crisp passes, hard shots, strong positioning. Both Quinn Lenihan and Nick Beck took double-minor penalties in quick succession in the third period, putting the Eagles down two men for a lengthy 3:10 kill. Mark Esposito scored just 19 seconds before the second penalty was set to expire, but the reason that lengthy 5-on-3 passed without a goal is partly because Sidhu did a great job of clearing the zone again and again. It's hard enough being down two men for that much time, but it's even harder when both guys in the box are defensemen. For a young guy making the adjustment from Junior B, having played last season with the Richmond Sockeyes, it was his best game as a Junior A player, and a good indication of what he might grow into over the course of the year.
     
  • Short was pulled after the second Jordan Kawaguchi goal in the middle frame, putting back-up Daniel Davidson into the net for 29 minutes of Saturday's action. An astute stick-lift from Chase McMurphy in the third period saved him a goal against, but when all you allow in that time is an Esposito powerplay goal at the tail end of a lengthy PK, you've done well. It is rare to see 16-year-old goaltenders in the BCHL, but my Friday colour-man John Cullen told me that of 15+ goalies he's seen go through the Earl Marriott Hockey Academy in his years there, Daniel is easily the best of the bunch. He sure looked it on Saturday.
     
  • When the coaching staff talks about young players with more to offer on a development curve in the early stages of this season, it is hard not to think of John Wesley. Wesley, a late cut out of Vancouver Giants training camp this year who won the PJHL Rookie of the Year trophy last season with the Richmond Sockeyes, might have the quickest release on his shot of any Eagle, and it's easy to see why his game attracted the attention of a major-junior club like the Giants. He just doesn't have the time or space available to him that he did in Junior B last year, but you can see him learning game-to-game, continuing to battle in consistently smarter ways. He was taken off the top line on Saturday in part to compensate for putting Chatterley back on D and experiment with some different looks, but also to see how he'd respond. Clearly the coaches liked how he played, as he worked his way back up the line-up before the game was done.
     
  • And finally, I heard a lot of bemoaning the loss of Surrey's gorgeous and distinct green home jerseys after the team took to the ice in new-look blue-and-silver jerseys on Friday night for the home-opener (looking a little like a Tampa Bay Lightning third jersey from a few seasons back). The Eagles have yet to wear the old greens on home ice this year, but I assure you they have not been retired -- as the club was back wearing last season's whites in Saturday's action and will be donning the greens again as well before too long. The team is dabbling in some new looks this year under new management, certainly. Can Friday night's jerseys be called a third jersey? Depending on who you ask, the team may wear a number of different looking sweaters over the course of the year this year. We're talking third, fourth, fifth jerseys. The home greens will be back, and if you love them (as many do), breathe easy.