Game one for one of the strangest BCHL seasons hit the ice at Scotia Barn (formerly 8-Rinks) saw the Coquitlam Express play host to the Surrey Eagles and the Coquitlam Express following COVID-19 protocol in place.
One concern for the league is officiating which falls under the umbrella of retired NHL Linesman Brad Lazarowich who has selected an impressive crew to officiate games in all BCHL Pods.
Brad joined the NHL in 1986 and worked 1,971 games before retiring in 2016. He was assigned to three Stanley Cup Finals, highlighted by a Game 7 in 2003 between Anaheim and New Jersey. He also worked the World Cup of hockey in 1996 and 2004, the 1996 NHL All-Star Game in Boston and spent 16 years in the NHL Officials Association where he played a key role in collective bargaining, officials’ contracts and the NHL Pension Society.
He joined the BCHL in the 2012-13 season as co-director of officiating while still active as an NHL linesman, so for those who question the officiating and don’t agree with each and every call remember the game has changed and so must the way everyone watches it.
This game saw referee’s Brad LeBus and Mitchell Gibbs with the bands while Arian Khayam and Adam Barish on the lines.
On a side-note to calling the games it’s interesting that three of the four officials also officiated ball hockey for the Richmond Minor Ball Hockey Association a few years back, which is something that the league office isn’t aware of.
This alone shows the dedication of today’s young officials who get into the program to help Canada’s National Winter Sport better for today’s youth who are looking to advance their career.
Despite the long layoff both teams got off to a fast start from the opening faceoff with both showing an intense and aggressive play.
Surrey started returning tender Tommy Scarfone in net who calls Montreal home in the off-season while the Express put Thornhill Ontario’s Dylan Kruss between the pipes who joined Coquitlam from Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the 2019-20 season.
The Eagles opened the scoring not just for their squad but also the BCHL season with the first goal off the stick of Buddy Johnson on a deflection while on the PP after a bullet shot at 10:07 taking the early lead.
The Express replied tying the game at 19:42 also on the power play off the stick of Sam Marit evening the score at one after an exciting end to end first with the Eagles outshooting the Express 12-11 after 20 minutes.
The second remained scoreless until the 10:20 that saw Eagle’s Tate Taylor collect his first of this early season after an impressive set-up from O’Hearn and Abgall getting grabbing assists.
The Eagles held a 2-1 lead until 16:19 when Alec Saretzky put them up 3-1 notching his 1st in only his seventh game played with the lone assist going to Will Kushniryk.
Despite being outscored the Express had chances only to be turned aside in a period that saw the Eagles again outshoot the Express by a 13-9 margin and 25-20 through 40 minutes.
Working not only for a win in their first extended season game saw the Eagles continue to control play in the early part of the third taking a 4-1 lead that saw Abgrall get his first of the season with Slipec and Santa-Juana getting assists.
It’s interesting to note that Santa-Juana is a product of the Delta Hockey Academy who showed his talent level in any game that I had the luxury to work for the Academy.
Brandon Santa-Juana played on a few DHA teams suiting up with the U-15 Prep Green in 2016-17.
He next suited up with the U-16 Prep team in 2017-18 season and went on to become a member of the Surrey Eagles for the 2018-19 season.
The Eagles scored 2:31 into the third on a goal by Michael Abgrall set-up by Brandon Santa Juana to make it 4-1 for the Eagles as they built their lead and with 11:54 Will Kushniryk finished off the scoring on the power play.
The Eagles dominated play throughout the third, hemming the Express in their zone, failing to let them get any breakout play moving up ice that saw the officials assess three minors to Coquitlam and two to the Eagles.
The Eagles continued to dominate in all zones on the ice capping the electric win with their fifth goal on the PP at 8:27 with former PG Spruce Kings Will Kushniryk get his first of the young season with assists going to Fitzgerald and Darby.
The third again saw the Eagles outshoot the Express by a 12-10 margin for a three period total of 37-30 for the Eagles.
While this is only the first game in the “POD” at Scotia Barn the season’s young and it’s fair to say that one game doesn’t mean anything other than two points in the standings so expect the Express to rebound in upcoming games.
1st) Jason Slipic (0G-1A)
2nd) Michael Abgrall (1G-1A)
3ed) Dylan Kruss (27SA-32SV)
Other games played saw Penticton outscore Trail 4-1, Vernon defeat Salmon Arm by the same 4-1 score, Chilliwack hammer Merrit 5-2 while the final game saw a SO win that saw Victoria defeat Alberni 6-5.
It should be noted that the only one’s permitted to attend games other than team and league staff are the media and scouts in attendance.
Be sure to follow game scores on Sportswave.ca
From my house to YOURS – HAPPY EASTER!!!!