For the fourth time in as many weeks, the Warriors make another weekday trip down to the Lower Mainland to take on the Surrey Eagles tonight at the South Surrey Arena.
Warriors vs. Eagles 2016/17 Season:
Thursday, November 24th @ South Surrey Arena (6-3 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)
Saturday, January 13th @ Royal LePage Place (5-2 Warriors) (BOXSCORE)
Warriors vs. Eagles 2017/18 Schedule:
Tuesday, October 10th @ South Surrey Arena (7:00 PM)
Tuesday, February 6th @ Royal LePage Place (7:00 PM)
1) THAT’S A LOT OF ICE
This will be one of the biggest keys for the night in Surrey and that is how the Warriors are going to handle playing on the Olympic ice surface and I think they may like it. The Warriors put up 6 goals on the Eagles in South Surrey last season and possess forwards and fleet-footed defensemen that can have some extra room to roam in the offensive end. As always, there is a flip side to that coin and that is that the Eagles forward group is a pretty deep one and they are quite skilled and play on this ice sheet and know it better than anyone else. As much as the offensive zone might light the eyes of the Warriors up, taking care of the defensive end will be a big key as well as you wouldn’t want to get in a track meet with a team like Surrey. But, in saying that, the Warriors have some great skaters and could cause a bit of a headache to some of the Eagles inside their own zone. Matt Kowalski is one name that comes to mind as a guy who could have a big night with some extra room to roam. The Vernon, BC native has been held pointless in his last four games and is due to breakout as he did in the game’s early on in the season. He’s got a quick set of feet and is one of the most talented players I’ve seen at this level in regards of how quickly and effortlessly he can make plays look. Some other Warriors who I think could be difference makers tonight is Parm Dhaliwal, playing in his hometown and he seemed to like it a year ago, putting up four points in the win. His playing making ability and vision could create some good chances for linemates Chase Dubois and Chase Stevenson, especially when thinking of the power play and how the Warriors have been rolling in the department all season long. Jake Harrison and Michael Ryan are a couple of defenseman that could benefit from a bit more open ice as both skate very well and are terrific at quickly exiting out of their own zone. Just a couple players and things to keep in the back of your mind as the game unfolds tonight (I mean one of my keys actually happened on Saturday so miracles do occur).
2) WWB AND CO.
A future law firm name? Quite possible. But tonight it serves as the Warriors opponent and a line that does much of the heavy lifting for the Brandon West-led Eagles. Ty Westgard, John Wesley and Desi Burgart have combined to score 17 of the Eagles 27 goals this season (63% for those mathematicians out there) and 34 of the Eagles 77 total points as a team (44%), this is a line that the Warriors will have to make sure to contain. Wesley is tied for the BCHL lead with 10 goals, including a four-goal game against the Vernon Vipers two Sundays ago, while Westgard and Burgart are equally skilled forwards that can feed the shooting Wesley very well. All three are on a four-game point streak and (obvious by the numbers) play a huge factor in the Eagles success. With that being said, I watched one of the Eagles games at the BCHL Showcase and this team is certainly skilled past those three men. They doubled Salmon Arm in shots on that occasion and brought the pressure all afternoon long but just couldn’t capitalize when they had to in order to win the game. Jeffrey Stewart has gotten off to a slower start than I think a lot of BCHL pundits would have him at but the Colgate University commit will find his groove, the Warriors just wish it isn’t on Tuesday night. Stewart, along with early season acquisition Connor Sundquist, have yet to find the back of the net while Ryan Brushett, former Vernon Viper, has only one goal to his name this season. It seems as though this team is more than capable of being a team in the top 3 of the Mainland Division but have taken some time to marinade as a group but don’t let the record fool you, this is a good hockey club and will put up a good game against the Warriors tonight.
3) SHALL WE SAY IT AGAIN?
I know, I know you’re tired of hearing about special teams but they play such a massive factor in each of the games the Warriors play that I feel like it is needed once more to highlight the specialty teams department, especially on the mass of land the game is being played on tonight. The Warriors power play, after going 2/8 on Saturday against the Silverbacks, is up to 24.1% and sits 4th in the league. Surrey owns the league’s 12th best PK at 78.4% so look for that to be a possible matchup and one that could go either way with the Warriors being unaccustomed to the bigger ice and not making quick enough decisions or using to their advantage and, like last season, getting the power play on board as a weapon, as they have done so well all season. The Tribe penalty kill has been the highlight of the special teams, sitting 1st in the league at 91.1% and the only team to have a PK over 90%. I know I jinxed the streak of consecutive penalties killed last game (the streak ended at 34 after I asked Warriors head coach about it in our pre game interview) but the PK shined, going 6/7 and spurred the Warriors to their 7th win of the season. The Eagles power play has struggled this season in 15th at 13.8% on the season but with the offensive weapons the Eagles possess, I wouldn’t expect that number to stay that low. Another special teams battle that could ultimately decide the winner of this contest.
The Warriors and Eagles face-off at 7 PM on the Warriors Internet Network and HockeyTV.com with the pre-game show starting at 6:45 PM with myself. The Warriors return home to RLP on Friday night, October the 13th (ohhh, Friday the 13th) against the Wenatchee Wild for the first meeting of the season between the now Interior Division foes.