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Eagles trail Clippers 2-0 as BCHL series shifts to Surrey

Next two games of first-round junior ‘A’ hockey matchup to be played at South Surrey Arena
Surrey Eagles player Jake Bongo races for a loose puck in the attacking zone during Saturday’s BCHL playoff game at Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo. (Greg Sakaki photo)

The Surrey Eagles find themselves in a bit of a hole after losing the first two games of their BC Hockey League playoff series against the Nanaimo Clippers, but they’ll have a chance to dig their way out of it this week, with the next two games at home.

The two clubs opened the first-round, best-of-seven series Friday at Nanaimo’s Frank Crane Arena, with the Clippers edging the Birds 3-2. Game 2, played Saturday night in the Hub City, was a wild, offence-filled affair, with the home team scoring in bunches en route to a 7-4 victory.

In Saturday’s 11-goal outburst, Surrey scored first – White Rock’s Buddy Johnson notched his first of the playoffs – but Nanaimo responded with three unanswered goals to take 3-1 lead at the first intermission. They extended that to 4-1 just 3:06 into the second period, though the Eagles were still within striking distance after 40 minutes, only trailing 5-3 thanks to goals from Jacob Bonkowski and Grayden Slipec.

Bonkowski scored again, this time late in the third, to briefly pull Surrey to within a goal, but 26 seconds later Nanaimo’s Kai Daniels scored, and Brody Waters added an empty-netter less than a minute later to ice it for the home team.

Despite the loss, Surrey outshot the Clippers 42-30.

After the game, Eagles coach Cam Keith said he was happy with the team’s resiliency, despite the loss.

“We never gave up when things were tough. We were down, we tried to come back and we fell behind again but that never deterred our team. The guys stuck together and I’m very proud of them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Clippers coach Colin Birkas noted after Game 2 that his squad was “good enough to win” while noting that his team got a few lucky bounces along the way, too.

“When you’re confident, the pucks seem to find their way through the goalies,” he said. “I thought we were fortunate, but I thought we made them pay on their mistakes.”

Game 3 is slated for Monday night at South Surrey Arena, and Game 4 will hit the ice Tuesday. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. for both games.

Though the Eagles are a young team – the youngest in the BCHL, in fact – Keith sounded confident his team would be able to bounce back and tie the series now that it has shifted to the Semiahmoo Peninsula for the next few days.

“Battling back is a crucial part of playoffs… We just need to establish a lead early and find our game before they do,” he said.

– with files from Greg Sakaki, Nanaimo News-Bulletin

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