SURREY, BC- Former Penticton Vees Darius Davidson closed out his BCHL career in style Thursday. The 20-year-old forward scored with just three-seconds left in overtime, as the Surrey Eagles stunned the Vees 4-3 Thursday night at South Surrey Arena.
Davidson, a Surrey native, walked in across the blue-line and his shot went off the Vees’ defenceman’s heel before beating Mat Robson, sending the Eagles out on a winning note in their final game of the season; the Eagles winning with just 16 skaters dressed due to injuries. Davidson scored twice in the win and the Eagles got their other two goals from another former Vee in Desi Burgart and Ty Westgard.
Keelan Williams, another graduating Eagle, made 38 saves in his final game of junior hockey.
Jared Nash, Grant Cruikshank and James Miller scored in regulation for the Vees, who were down 3-1 after 20-minutes, before rallying in the second to tie things up. Mat Robson was tagged with the loss, stopping all but one of the 24 shots in a relief appearance. Nolan Hildebrand started the game but was replaced by Robson after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first period.
It couldn’t have started better for the visitors as Nash scored 10-seconds into the game, after capitalizing on a turnover out front. Off the opening face-off, the puck was fired into the Surrey corner, where it was misplayed by a defender, sending it out front, where Nash quickly fired it in for his fifth.
Despite that early goal, things went downhill from there, as the Eagles scored three unanswered goals in last 12-minutes to grab a 3-1 lead before the break.
First, Ty Westgard tied the game when his shot from the slot went off the tip of Hildebrand’s glove and trickled in across the line at 8:59. Then, Burgart put the Eagles ahead on a great individual effort, which started by him stealing the puck at the blue-line, then he cut to the goal, lifting a backhand up and over Hildebrand at 12:28. A minute and a half after that, it was Davidson scoring his first of the game.
Davidson slipped in behind the defender in front, took a centering pass from the wall and then quickly slid the puck underneath Hildebrand at 14:02.
Penticton started to turn things around in the second and got back on the scoresheet early, courtesy of the power-play. Gabe Bast fired the puck across to Cruikshank and from just inside the circle on the right-wing, he beat Williams over the glove at 2:21; Cruikshank’s team-leading 32nd goal.
James Miller drew the Vees even late in the frame after he jumped up into the play, as the Vees had numbers going the other way. Nicholas Jones carried the puck in over the line, before dropping to the trailer Miller, who fired it post and in for his sixth at 16:31; Miller scoring his second in the last three games.
The 3-3 deadlocked held up right through into overtime, as neither side could score on 20 combined shots in the third period.
Surrey outshot the Vees 7-0 in OT and Davidson ended it late, when he scored from just inside the blue-line. It appeared Paul McAvoy ran interference on the back-checking Cruikshank, who was taken down at his own blue-line, which opened up room for Davidson to walk in and score.
Final Score: 4-3 (OT) Eagles
Shots: 42-36 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 1-4 Eagles 0-2
Three Stars: 1) Darius Davidson 2) Paul McAvoy 3) Keelan Williams
Notes: The overtime loss snaps the Vees’ two-game win streak and drops their record to 40-13-1-3; they finish with a win and overtime loss in two games against the Eagles this season. Earlier Thursday, the BCHL announced its finalists for their individual awards and the Vees have three nominations. President, General Manager and Head Coach Fred Harbinson is up for the Coach of the Year award, Grant Cruikshank is nominated for the Most Sportsmanlike award and Mat Robson is in the running for league MVP.
Penticton (40-13-1-3) wraps up their BCHL regular season tomorrow at Prospera Centre against the Chilliwack Chiefs (40-10-0-6), who sit second in the Mainland Division; puck-drop is 7 pm. The Vees are two points behind the Chiefs for second place in the overall standings but have played one more game than Chilliwack.