With a little help from their friends, the Surrey Eagles stretched their lead atop the B.C. Hockey League's Mainland Division despite winning just one of their two weekend games.
Playing without several injured players including Adam Tambellini, Demico Hannoun and Tommy Stipancik, the bruised and battered Eagles were tripped up 4-1 by the Spruce Kings in Prince George Thursday night before returning home where they gutted out a 5-3 win over the Langley Rivermen at South Surrey Arena Saturday.
The loss to the Spruce Kings was just the second setback in regulation since Dec. 14 for the Eagles and with all of their division rivals posting losses on the weekend, Surrey now holds a five-point lead over second place Chilliwack in the Mainland standings.
Eagles coach Matt Erhart said the five-point cushion is nice, but he would be happier if the Birds were playing with a healthier roster.
"Chilliwack lost both of their games and PG lost another one so we actually gained ground in the standings by winning one and losing one," he said. "We're into the final 10 games of the season now so it's crunch time for everybody. Hopefully we'll get some of our guys back so we can finish strongly. Ever since we made our trades (at the Jan. 10 deadline), we haven't had a full lineup for any of our games. We have some ideas of who we want to play together but we haven't been able to do that because we're always missing one or two guys. It's been kind of a jumble every game for the last couple of weeks to be honest."
Surrey opened the weekend in Prince George where, once again, the hockey gods were not smiling on them. As he has on every encounter with the Eagles this season, Spruce Kings goalie - and Surrey native - Kirk Thompson frustrated the Surrey shooters at every turn, finishing with 31 saves and the win.
The Eagles trailed 2-1 after two periods but the Spruce Kings salted the game away with two goals less than two minutes apart midway through the final frame.
Brady Shaw scored the lone goal for Surrey.
"For whatever reason this year, whenever we play in PG we get no bounces whatsoever," Erhart said. "We haven't scored more than two goals in any of our games there. This time we were down 2-1 after two periods and we're outshooting them and then they score a lucky goal that we didn't get. So instead of being tied 2-2, the score is 3-1 for them and the rest is history."
Saturday night in South Surrey, the Eagles were able to bolster their roster with several affiliate players for their latest date with their eastern neighbours from Langley.
Surrey led 2-1 after the opening frame on goals by Nicolas Pierog and Michael Stenerson, but the Rivermen battled back to tie the game at 3-3 in the second period. The Eagles regained the lead on an unassisted marker by captain Brett Mulcahy shortly before the second intermission and then iced the affair with an unassisted goal by Trevor Cameron late in the third period.
Shaw finished with a goal and an assist to earn first star honours.
"It was a good game and we scored some nice goals," Erhart said. "We have some guys who are making the most of the extra ice time they're getting because so many guys are out with injuries. A win is a win at this time of the year and we'll take it."
The Eagles are back on the ice with three games this week beginning with a visit from the Spruce Kings Friday (7 p.m.). The Eagles cross the Port Mann Bridge to play Coquitlam Saturday before closing out the weekend Monday afternoon (2 p.m.) against Langley.