Saturday night in Trail the Surrey Eagles went 2-for-8 on the power play. They put up 31 shots on goal. And they lost 19-3.
19. To. 3.
It’s a shocking result. There are so many questions regarding the most lopsided result in recent BCHL memory, but the number one is, how did this happen?
There is little doubt the Eagles failed to get adequate goaltending from either starter Daniel Davidson or affiliate back-up Lukas Shaw. Davidson had the rare feat of managing to get pulled twice within the same game. After allowing four goals on eight shots in the first 6:32 of the opening period Davidson was yanked in favour of Shaw who didn’t fare much better letting in three more on 13 shots through the remainder of the period.
The Eagles then put Davidson back in net to start the second. He let in five more goals on 13 Trail shots in the frame as the Eagles were down 12-3 after 40 minutes. Davidson was back in to start the third but let in five more before being pulled again at the 14:05 mark. Shaw went back in and let in three more in the final agonizing six minutes of the game, the last of which was mercifully waived off due to goaltender interference, a call that denied the Smokies of a 20th goal.
So Davidson finished the game with a .440 save percentage while Shaw finished with a somewhat more respectable .722. I feel bad even talking about these numbers because no matter how poorly each may have played, there is no way you can place even a majority of the blame on the goaltenders.
The Smokies also didn’t seem necessarily intent on totally running up the score that badly, resting some of their top forwards at times.
So that leads me back to my original question, how did this happen?
I have seen more than enough junior hockey games to realize when a team starts to shut itself down. That is to shut down within a particular game, not the season, although the jury’s out on that count regarding Surrey. Four goals on eight shots in 6:32 will do it almost every time. Some teams with strong leadership and good coaching may be able to overcome that early deficit, but more often than not there’s a mental block that teams just can’t seem to get past. I wasn’t in attendance at Cominco Arena on that historic night Saturday but it sure does appear the Eagles just quit playing, at least in their own zone. They still managed to put up over 30 shots of their own and scored a pair of power play goals. But while the Smoke Eaters are a much improved team this season, they should not have been able to score 19 times against any other BCHL squad. Nobody should. Ever.
Earlier this season I wrote on this blog about how I thought the Eagles had maybe turned a corner of sorts. They put together some decent stretches of hockey throughout October and November but since then have taken a serious step backward. Surrey has lost six in a row, yet to win a game in 2017, while being outscored 46-14. Over the past three seasons the Eagles have a combined record of 30-119-7-3. Something’s got to give eventually.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Wenatchee Wild have become the first team in the league to secure a playoff spot. After losing three straight to Chilliwack to start the post-Christmas schedule, the Wild are a perfect 4-0 to start 2017. Can Wenatchee continue their pace en route to a first-ever regular season banner in just their second year in the league?
If the Powell River Kings had a bit more time they could be in the conversation with Wenatchee or Penticton to earn home-ice throughout the playoffs. Since the calendar turned the Kings are a perfect 6-0 and have won seven straight dating back to December 30th. Fresh off a pair of wins in Victoria over the weekend, the Kings are now just four points back of the division leading Grizzlies.
Staying in the Island, look out for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. They were all but dead and buried in early December but have slowly clawed their way back into the playoff conversation. Going 3-3 in their last six games, the Bulldogs are just one point behind the fourth-place Clippers and with a pair of games in hand. The Bulldogs are in Nanaimo on Friday night with a chance to leapfrog into a playoff spot.
While the Clippers are in real danger of missing the post-season, the Cowichan Valley Capitals aren’t exactly out of the woods yet especially given recent results. The Caps are 1-6 in their last seven games and are coming off a brutal road trip with losses in Coquitlam (6-3), Wenatchee (6-0), and West Kelowna (7-3). With 14 games left and an eight point lead over the struggling Clippers, the Capitals are probably a safe bet to make the playoffs but it’s also a matter of how you’re playing going into the post-season.
While the Wild have secured a post-season berth, the league standings look a bit different than the past couple of years at this time. There is no run away favourite. The Vees, Grizzlies, and Chiefs are all within seven points of Wenatchee and all of the above have proven to be beatable and have had their own set of struggles at times. It should make for a fun last six weeks of the season with plenty still to be determined.