Contributed by Jesse Adamson for BCHL Communications
Tonight – Surrey Eagles (22-15-4-2) at Coquitlam Express (10-27-1-3)
7 p.m. Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre in Coquitlam
Presented by the BCIHL
This is the sixth time these teams have met this year. Surrey leads the season series 3-1-0-1. The two teams played to a 2-2 tie in the first meeting in Surrey on Sept. 10. John Wesley scored both goals for Surrey and was named first star of the game. Cooper Reid stopped 42 of the 44 shots he faced for Coquitlam and was named third star. On Oct. 28 in Coquitlam, Wesley scored another two goals for the Eagles, including the game-winner, as he lead his team to a 4-2 win.
On Nov. 10, Wesley was again the star offensively for Surrey as his hat trick propelled the Eagles to a 4-2 home win. Coquitlam goalie Brock Hamm stopped 39 of 42 shots in a losing effort. The two teams met again the following night in Coquitlam where the Express took an early 2-0 lead, but Surrey stormed back to win the game 5-3. Coquitlam got their first win of the year against the Eagles in their most recent meeting on Jan. 13 in Coquitlam. The Express were led by two goals from forward Jack MacNab and three assists from defenceman Troy Robillard.
Surrey goalie Mario Cavaliere shutout the Langley Rivermen in his BCHL debut on Friday in his team’s 5-0 win at home. He followed that up by getting another shutout in his second start on Sunday at home against the Cowichan Valley Capitals in a 7-0 win. Over his first two starts, he has stopped all 72 shots he’s faced and was named the BCHL Player of the Week. Surrey head coach Brandon West confirmed that Cavaliere will get the start tonight. Eagles forward Mackenzie Merriman has points in his last three games, putting up five assists over that stretch. Surrey’s John Wesley leads the BCHL with 31 goals and is tied with teammate Ty Westgard for fourth in the league in points with 52. Westgard leads the league with 43 assists. Owen Norton is tied for 16th in the BCHL in points by defencemen with 25 (3-22-25).
Coquitlam is led offensively by forward Eric Linell who has 37 points in 41 games. His 21 goals lead the team are tied for fifth most in the BCHL. Defenceman Troy Robillard leads the team in assists with 17 and points from the blueline with 20. Express goalie Brock Hamm is coming off a 17-save performance in a 4-1 win over Surrey on Saturday. He has a 5-7-2 record with a .915 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.88 in 14 appearances this year.
What’s at Stake
Surrey is in a three-way tie with the Langley Rivermen and the Prince George Spruce Kings for first place in the Mainland Division. A win tonight would vault them into sole possession of first and increase the gap between them and the fourth-place Chilliwack Chiefs who are currently five points behind the division leaders.
Coquitlam is in last place in the Mainland Division but are three points ahead of the Cowichan Valley Capitals for the final playoff spot with two games in hand.
Coquitlam head coach Jason Fortier on facing Surrey tonight:
“I think Surrey is a very good hockey team. We’ve got to be ready to play with our energy and make sure we’re tracking pucks and doing all the little things away from the puck to make sure that we can slow them down. (They’re) a good-skating hockey club, they’ve got some high-end talent up front so we’re going to hopefully play the game a little more in their zone and not get into a track meet.”
Fortier on his team’s response to losing their captain and second-leading scorer Alex Ambrosio:
“It sucked to lose him. But we added a couple players in the meantime. By adding those guys it provided us to have the numbers up front, but we’ve added some really good pieces that we believe have the right attitude and are really blossoming in a short period of time.”
Fortier on his team’s improvement since he arrived midseason:
“One of the things is we have two very good goaltenders, so that helps. What we’ve been isolating on as far as a group correction is our daily habits – what’s accepted, how do we practice, in the game, what is the accountability to the man beside you and what type of identity do we want to build as a hockey club? It didn’t seem like there was an identity when I got here, so we’re trying to work towards something and this year, we’re trying to lay the foundation with the right manners, the right habits, the right way of doing things for long-term success.”
Surrey head coach Brandon West on facing Coquitlam tonight:
“We’ve only faced them once since their coaching change and obviously they’ve been playing real good hockey as of late. They’re always going to be dangerous because they’re fighting for their playoff lives right now so that makes them very dangerous. They’re a much-improved team and they’re starting to find their stride.
“Anytime that you play in a smaller rink like theirs you face some different challenges than you normally would. I think competing is obviously number one, you have to be prepared to play the game a little bit quicker because of the bounces that happen in that rink. So we have to be better defensively than we were last week against them and with good defense comes good offense.”
West on the impressive performance from new goaltender Mario Cavaliere:
“He’s just a boost of energy in our game right now. I think we’re getting contributions from everybody, but obviously Mario has given us an extra shot of energy here with his play. His abilities are speaking for themselves right now.”
West on his team’s success so far this season:
“We’ve just had buy-in from everybody. There’s a lot of good hockey players on our team…We had a slow start and our game has picked up immensely since October. We’re getting contributions from everybody in our lineup, that’s not just goals and assists, it’s the little things in the game – blocking shots, faceoffs, all those kind of things that are important to a team’s success.”
ABOUT THE BCIHL
The British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League was created with the purpose of offering a venue for competitive, high-calibre hockey that’s close to home for players beyond their junior careers. The league was launched in 2006 and now includes six member teams: Eastern Washington University, Selkirk College, Simon Fraser University, Trinity Western University, the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University. This season, 25 graduates with over 2750 games of BCHL experience are pursuing their academic and athletic goals in the BCIHL. To learn more about the BCIHL and playing opportunities for BCHL grads, visit BCIHL.ca.