Offence leads Surrey Eagles to pair of wins

Home-ice victories over Vernon, Langley boost Surrey up the division standings

Goals came in bunches for the Surrey Eagles last week, and victories did, too, as the BC Hockey League club won twice in three games to pull themselves out of the Mainland Division basement.

On Thursday at South Surrey Arena, the Eagles potted five goals en route to a 5-3 win over the division rival Langley Rivermen. The Rivermen rebounded Friday night in Langley with a win of their own – 6-3 over the Eagles at the George Preston Centre – but on Sunday, the Eagles’ offence exploded, led by a Jeff Stewart hat trick, in an 8-4 home-ice victory over the Vernon Vipers.

With the two wins, the Eagles improved their record to 6-12-2-0 (win-loss-overtime loss-tie), which puts them fifth in the six-team Mainland Division, ahead of the Coquitlam Express, who have the same number of points but have played one more game. Surrey also has one more point than the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the Island Division.

It’s the first time since the end of the 2013/14 season that the Eagles have been above last place in the league standings.

Stewart and linemate Darius Davidson were the offensive catalysts Sunday, as Stewart potted three goals, including the game-winner, while Davidson had a goal and three assists.

Stewart, Andrew Kemp, Desi Burgart and defenceman Nick Minerva scored in the first period to give the Eagles a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and though Vernon scored twice in the second – with Stewart’s second goal sandwiched between them – the home side fired home three more in the final frame, including another from Burgart, to secure the win.

“It feels pretty awesome to get three… our whole line was going tonight,” Stewart told Eagles play-by-play announcer Kyle Balzer after the game.

The Eagles’ power-play continued to find success Sunday, too, going three-for-six. The team has a 28.9 per-cent success rate with the man-advantage, which is best in the entire 17-team league.

Goaltender Michael Botiz – playing his sixth straight game – earned the win, stopping 40 shots on goal.

The two wins bring to five the number of victories on home ice for the Eagles, who only have one win away from the Olympic-sized ice sheet at South Surrey Arena. And though head coach Blaine Neufeld stressed to Peace Arch News last week the importance of finding success on the road – “We have to find some inner grit (for road games)” he said – they’re pleased with their continued success at home.

“I think we definitely take advantage of home ice, the bigger ice surface,” Stewart said. “We have a lot of extra room out there.”

On Thursday, Surrey’s offence was led by rookie forward Ashton Calder, who had a pair of goals, while Stewart and defenceman Cory Babichuk each had a goal and an assist.

The Rivermen were no slouches in the offensive department, either, and led 1-0 after one period and 3-2 after two before the Eagles mounted a comeback attempt with three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes, including two from Calder.

Langley earned a measure of revenge Friday night, however, peppering Botiz with six goals on 42 shots, while the Eagles managed just 18 shots on Langley goalie Bo Didur.

Calder, Jordan Robert and captain Paul McAvoy were the Surrey goal-scorers.

The Eagles will look to keep their home-ice momentum going on Thursday, when they host the Prince George Spruce Kings in South Surrey, before heading out on the road this weekend. On Saturday, they’ll head to Port Alberni to face the Bulldogs, and on Sunday they’ll square off against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

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