The Surrey Eagles refuse to be grounded by the Langley Rivermen.
Through four games of the BC Hockey League first-round series, the two Mainland Division rivals were in a dead heat, tied 2-2.
Game 5 is set for tonight at the Langley Events Centre.
Twice in the series, the Rivermen – who finished the regular season 29 points better than the Eagles – have led, only to have the Eagles fight back to tie the series. Langley won the opening game last week, but Surrey captured Game 2 after a third-period comeback.
Games 3 and 4 – held Friday and Saturday at South Surrey Arena – unfolded in much the same fashion.
In Friday’s game, Surrey lead 1-0 after 20 minutes on a goal from Nathan Renouf, but Langley controlled the game over the final 40 minutes, scoring six times – three in each of the final two periods.
Zach Urban, Matt Ustaski and Jakob Reichert gave the Rivermen a 3-1 lead in the second, and the visitors continued to pour it on in the third, scoring three more unanswered goals – from Ustaski, Kevan Killistoff and Darien Craighead – to take a 6-1 lead.
In the final six minutes of the game, Surrey added two goals – from Chase McMurphy and Matthew Dawson – but the game ended 6-3.
Despite losing by three, the Eagles were not without their chances to run up the score themselves; the team was just 1-for-7 on the power play, with the lone man-advantage tally being Dawson’s in the game’s waning minutes.
The offensive barrage – rare for a playoff series, as teams tend to play tight defensive hockey – continued Saturday night, with the teams combining for 12 goals in a 7-5 Eagles’ victory.
And unlike the day before, Surrey’s power-play was humming Saturday, going 4-for-9. Even with Friday’s power-play struggles, the team has been impressive with the man advantage, going 8-for-27 in the series.
The Birds’ offence came from a rather unlikely source Saturday, too, as defenceman Philippe Johansson – who had just 12 points in 53 regular-season games – had three goals and two assists.
The 19-year-old defenceman was far from the only Eagle with the Midas touch. Captain Danton Heinen – who last week was named the BCHL’s rookie of the year and most sportsmanlike player – had four assists, while McMurphy had a goal and two assists.
Blue-liner Kale Bennett added two goals, while Dawson rounded out the offence. In total, six of the team’s seven goals came from defencemen.
Eagles’ goaltender Bo Didur – who has played all four games of the series – was peppered with 44 Langley shots in the win, stopping 39.
The fourth game was the only one in the series in which the Eagles never trailed, though they’ve also proven that they have the ability to recover from an early deficit.
In Game 2 last Wednesday, the Eagles trailed at three different times in the game – once in each period – but goals from McMurphy and Renouf less than two minutes apart in the third period propelled the team to the win.
The Rivermen struck first when Ustaski – who has six goals in the series thus far – gave the home team a lead just four minutes into the game, but Heinen tied the game 10 minutes later on the power play.
In the second, the Rivermen got their second lead of the contest on a goal from Gage Torrell, but as was the case in the first period, the lead lasted but 10 minutes, as Jonah Renouf made it 2-2, with an assist going to Anthony Conti, who is the team’s co-leader in playoff points, with six.
Ustaski scored his third of the playoffs 46 seconds into the third period – with Evan Anderson and Mitch McLain picking up assists – before McMurphy and Nathan Renouf replied with two quick goals later in the period.
Regardless of the outcome of Game 5 Monday, the series will go to at last a sixth contest, which will hit the ice tonight (Tuesday) in South Surrey.