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Coquitlam Express drop pod season-opener to Surrey Eagles

The Coquitlam Express opened its 20-game BCHL pod season with a 5-1 loss to the Surrey Eagles on Friday.
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The Coquitlam Express will be seeing a lot of the Surrey Eagles in the team's five-week pod season at the Scotia Barn in Burnaby. They'll face each other 10 times, along with another 10 games against the Powell River Kings.

The Surrey Eagles scored two unanswered goals in the second period, and another two in the third to defeat the Coquitlam Express 5-1 in their BC Hockey League game on Friday at the Scotia Barn in Burnaby.

It was the teams’ first game since Nov. 7 when the league had to first suspend its exhibition schedule for teams in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities because of tighter public health restrictions to control spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Those restrictions were then extended to the rest of the province Nov. 18, shutting down all play unit Friday.

The Eagles opened the scoring midway through the first period when Buddy Johnson scored on a power play as Coquitlam’s Colten Kovich cooled his heels in the penalty box, serving a two-minute minor for holding.

Sam Marit got the Express even with a power play goal just 18 second before the teams retired to the dressing room for the first intermission.

Tate Taylor scored the winning goal 10:20 into the second period, followed six minutes later by a goal from Surrey’s Alec Saretzky. The Eagles’ Michael Abgrall and Wil Kushniryk scored in the third period.

The Express won’t waste any time trying to get on a winning track, as they’ll face the Powell River Kings Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at the Scotia Barn.

Coquitlam, Surrey and Powell River comprise the Lower Mainland pod, one of five such groupings playing out a 20-game season over the next five weeks after several months of being restricted to conducting just practices. The BCHL received approval for its return to play plan March 12, triggering a two-week quarantine for all players and coaches prior to a brief four-day training camp to prepare for the abbreviated season.

The league’s chief medical officer, Dr. Bob McCormack, who was hired to oversee its health and safety protocols said nobody tested positive for the coronavirus coming out of the quarantine period in which players were confined to their billet homes.

“Now it’s up to the protocol to make sure everybody is physically distanced as much as they can, wearing masks except when they’re actually exercising,” he said in a statement on the BCHL’s website.

Other modifications to keep players safe include prohibiting “fly-bys” after a goal, when players on the ice skate past their bench and tap gloves in celebration.

McCormack, who’s been a head doctor for the BC Lions football team as well as the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Canadian Olympic team, said it will take a group effort to ensure play continues.

“We can do this safely,” he said. “But there are risks, and everyone has to do their part.”