The Surrey Eagles’ slim playoff hopes were dashed last week, after the team lost a pair of games to the Chilliwack Chiefs.
The losses – coupled with victories by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, the team they were chasing for the BC Hockey League’s final post-season spot – leave the Birds on the outside of the playoff picture for the third consecutive season.
Surrey’s record of 17-35-4-0 (win-loss-overtime loss-tie) gives them 38 points with two games remaining in the regular season – 12 points back of Salmon Arm.
The Eagles had been aiming to overtake Salmon Arm for the final Interior Divison post-season spot – a new playoff format this year allowed the top non-playoff team in the Mainland Division to cross over to the Interior bracket if they had more points than that division’s final playoff team.
Surrey trailed the Silverbacks by six points last week, but a late-season surge by Salmon Arm that saw them win three straight put the Eagles’ in their rearview mirror.
On Thursday in front of an announced crowed of 886 at South Surrey Arena, the Eagles lost 4-3 to Chilliwack, and followed that up by losing 7-2 to the Chiefs Saturday night at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre.
In the first game, the Eagles jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Paul McAvoy notched his 18th goal of the season in the first period, and Ashton Calder made it 2-0 early in the second, though Chilliwack responded in kind with two goals of their own to tie the score by the second intermission.
Chilliwack scored twice more in the third – sandwiched around another Calder goal for the Eagles – to secure the win.
Saturday’s contest saw the Eagles again take an early lead – they were up 2-0 after the first period despite getting outshot 20-7 – but the Chiefs potted five straight in the second, plus an empty-netter in the third to earn the two points.
Both Surrey goals were notched by defencemen; Landon Fuller scored his second of the year and Cory Babichuk scored his sixth of the campaign on a marvelous end-to-end effort. Captain Jordan Robert assisted on both goals.
The Eagles made strides this season – winning more games than the past two seasons combined – but struggled to gain ground on playoff teams down the stretch.
Despite recent struggles, head coach Blaine Neufeld, who did not return calls by Peace Arch News deadline Tuesday morning, had told PAN earlier this month that he felt his team was still in the playoff mix, and there was “a belief that we can rattle off some wins here.”
Surrey has two games left in the season, both on home ice. Tonight (Wednesday) they host the Merritt Centennials, and Thursday will play the Penticton Vees to wrap up the schedule.