1) Special Teams: Pretty simple, the Eagles were the better team in the special teams department Friday. The Surrey power-play had its struggles leading up to the series with only nine goals on fifty-six opportunities. Well tonight they made the most of their chances, scoring on two of their first three power-plays and scored their first goal of the game with a player in the penalty box. When you score two power-play goals and a short-handed marker, usually you’re going to come out on top.
The Stenerson short-handed goal late in the first period was a back-breaker for the Vees. They had a great start, were pushing the pace and putting together a great road period in the opening game of the series. The Vees scored first on a great tip by Brock Balson of a sweet feed by Ryan Gropp. Then they get a late power-play and have an opportunity to go up by two just before the intermission.
Michael Stenerson’s shorty was something out of the twilight zone. It’s still hard trying to explain how that puck actually ended up in the net. Stenerson had a backhand attempt go off a stick, then off a Vees leg, up in the air and over an unsuspecting Chad Katunar. The goal was kind of like when Kevin Bieksa scored in OT goal against San Jose in the playoffs. Nearly everyone lost track of the puck for a moment then boom, it’s in the back of the Vees net.
A two-goal swing right there, as it went from potentially being 2-0 to a 1-1 tie heading into the second period. The Eagles used that momentum and benefited from some Vees penalty troubled to bust the game open early in the second period. Another odd sequence of events, as Thomas Nitsche somehow was thumbed for two penalties on the same play. OK, is there one on the play? Probably, two? Well I need to look at the tape on that one. A call that is rarely seen.
Anyways the Eagles score on the start of the four-minute power-play then get a full two-minute five-on-three when the Vees were called for a tripping moments after the first Eagles goal. The way the game was going early in the second, the Eagles were bound to score on that two-man advantage and they did; tough break for the Vees.
The power-play and penalty-kill two top units in the post-season had an off night. That’s all you can say about that. The power-play did look good at times, especially late in the second when they were only done by one. The Vees got three good scoring chances but couldn’t equalize.
2) Michael Stenerson: The Eagles best player on Friday and fully deserving off the first star. Another two goals and three points after a hat-trick in game four against Alberni Valley. If you’re scoring at home, that’s five goals and six points in his last three periods. Stenerson is now just one back of Adam Tambellini for the BCHL goal-scoring lead and jumps past Brady Shaw for the BCHL scoring race with 17 points.
We talked about Stenerson throughout our broadcast and I wrote about him in my series preview, a guy that goes under the radar when talking about the Eagles because a lot of people want to focus on Tambellini and Shaw. I thought Stenerson was very good in the face-off circle as well tonight, as he seemed to come up with face-off wins at key times. Stenerson’s performance is more magnified because the Vees really kept Shaw and Tambellini at bay, as those two only combined for one assist. Safe to say Stenerson was a big reason why Surrey is sitting with a 1-0 series lead.
3) Puck Luck or Lack there Of: Maybe a cop-out to some to bring this up but the Vees just didn’t have the bounces go there way tonight. When you’re at this point in the season, bounces can mean the difference between a loss and a win. An argument is that you have to earn your bounces but I though the Vees did tonight.
I can recall what feels like a laundry list of chances that might have changed the game in the Vees favour if the puck bounced their way. I already talked about the Stenerson short-handed goal, but there also was the Craig Wyszomirski muffin that found its way into the net. Wyszomirski fanned on his one-timer on the power-play but the puck acted like a change-up fooling Chad Katunar.
The Vees couldn’t get pucks to sit for them either tonight and had countless opportunities get washed out after they lost the handle on a deke or just couldn’t get the puck cleanly on their stick in a shooting area, But that’s what this stage is all about, a game of inches but also making the most of the chances you do get. Lucky to be good and good to be lucky. Right?