A weekend split has jolted the Surrey Eagles out of what was a seven-game losing streak, and also helped them keep pace with other Mainland Division teams, as squads jockey for position with BC Hockey League playoffs just a few weeks away.
On Friday night at South Surrey Arena, the Birds defeated the Mainland Division’s top squad, the Prince George Spruce Kings, by a 5-3 margin – the team’s first victory since clinching a playoff-clinching weekend in January – but couldn’t stretch the success to a second game, losing Sunday afternoon 5-3 to the Penticton Vees, who have just just 12 games all season and sit comfortably in first place in the entire BCHL with 81 points.
The weekend results left the Eagles with 58 points, by comparison, which sits them in a third-place tie, points-wise, with the Chilliwack Chiefs in the Mainland Division, though the Chiefs have one more win, and therefore occupy third spot in the standings.
The Langley Rivermen are second, with 60 points, while the Spruce Kings have locked up top spot with 68. If the standings stay as-is, the Eagles would have a travel-filled first round date with the Prince George crew.
Surrey still has three games left in the regular season – all against Vancouver Island competition. On Friday, they head to Nanaimo to battle the Clippers; on Saturday night, they’ll be in Cowichan to play the Capitals and they’ll end the whirlwind weekend with a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Victoria Grizzlies.
If the Birds hope to move into second or third position before the playoffs begin, this weekend should provide ample opportunity. Of their three scheduled opponents, only the Grizzlies are above .500, and the Caps are in a spot similar to one the Eagles were in just a few seasons ago, with just nine wins on the season.
The Eagles, of course, will need to prove that they’ve shaken off their February doldrums for good, and that Friday’s impressive victory over the Spruce Kings was no fluke.
The game started well for the home team, with Jeff Stewart potting his 16th goal of the season to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play, and Matthew Campese wasted little time doubling the lead after the first intermission, scoring just 22 seconds into the second period.
Desi Burgart added his 22nd goal of the season seven minutes later to stretch the lead to 3-0, but Prince George cut into the lead after that, with two goals in the final 12 minutes of the period – the first, a power-play marker from Blake Hayward and the second from Sam Anzai.
In the third, the Kings completed the comeback attempt when Liam Watson-Brown found the back of the net, but the deadlock lasted just two-and-a-half minutes. At 8:40 of the final frame, Ryan Brushett restored Surrey’s lead, and Ty Westgard – who also had two assists in the game – added an insurance goal four minutes later.
Daniel Davidson earned the win in net for Surrey, making 27 saves.
Sunday’s game started in exactly the same way as Friday’s affair – with Stewart scoring a first-period goal to give the home team an early lead.
The Vees powered back to tie it before the period was out, however, when Chris Klack scored his eighth of the year. Klack added another 37 seconds into the second period to put the visitors ahead, but the Eagles tied it six minutes later when defenceman Brendan Winslow scored his his first goal of the season.
Stewart added another – his 18th of the year – before the period was done to give Surrey a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes, but Penticton scored three in the third to run away with the two points.
Owen Sillinger scored 28 seconds into the final period, Michael Campoli tacked on a goal-ahead just a few minutes later, and Dakota Boutin scored into an empty net to complete the scoring.