Surrey Eagles forward Rocco La Cara battles with Coquitlam Express forward Dante Berrettoni during a game earlier this season. (Damon James photo)

Surrey Eagles forward Rocco La Cara battles with Coquitlam Express forward Dante Berrettoni during a game earlier this season. (Damon James photo)

Surrey Eagles wrap up BCHL ‘pod’ season with win over Coquitlam

South Surrey-based junior ‘A’ hockey team finishes with 17-2-1 record

The Surrey Eagles wrapped up their 20-game BC Hockey League ‘pod’ season Sunday in much the same way they finished every game they played over the last five weeks – by winning.

The Eagles defeated the Coquitlam Express 5-1 Sunday which, combined with two wins over Powell River a few days earlier – a 4-2 win Friday night and a 6-0 shutout last Wednesday – saw the Birds finish the season with 13 straight victories; the team’s last loss came in overtime, April 14 to the Express. Their last loss in regulation time – and therefore the last time the team didn’t pick up at least one point in the standings – was April 8.

Surrey finished the season with a record of 17-2-1 (win-loss-overtime loss), having played only against the two other teams in their cohort group, which played all games out of Burnaby’s Scotia Barn.

“It was a great way for our graduating players to finish their careers,” Eagles head coach Cam Keith said of Sunday’s win, noting that it was the final game for veterans Wil Kushniryk, Holden Katzalay and Tommy Scarfone.

Due to injuries, three other graduating players – captain Kieran O’Hearn, Tyson McLean and Jacob Piller – did not dress for what would have been their final game.

Kushniryk scored in his final game, while Katzalay added two assists and Scarfone made 17 saves.

Also scoring for Surrey were Jimmy Darby – who opened the scoring 13:32 into the first period – Christian Fitzgerald, Brett Bliss and Brandon Santa Juana. Meanwhile, Austin Fraser notched the lone goal for Coquitlam.

In Friday’s win, McLean scored twice, while Santa Juana and Michael Abgrall rounded out the offence for the Peninsula squad. Max Prazma was between the pipes in that game, stopping 27 of 29 shots fired his way.

Earlier in the week, Scarfone backstopped the Birds to a 6-0 shutout over Coquitlam. In that game – which was Scarfone’s first shutout of the season – Santa Juana, Gabe Schovanek, Tio D’Addario and White Rock’s Jacob Slipec scored.

Though the Eagles finished atop their three-team division – and were second overall in the entire BCHL, behind over the Penticton Vees in total points – the BCHL announced last month that there would be no postseason play following the initial 20-game schedule.

“Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions in the province and the challenges that changing cohorts would have presented, the league determined it was not feasible to conduct a postseason,” the league announced in an April 27 news release.

In the absence of a traditional playoff format, the league said that the top team in each of the five pods would earn “championship status” while each pod will also hand out its own most valuable player, top defenceman, top goalie, top rookie and top scorer awards.

Fitzgerald led the Burnaby-based pod – and the entire BCHL – in scoring with 33 points in just 19 games, while Katzalay was third in the scoring race, with 30 points in 19 games. Defenceman Brett Bliss was second in the BCHL, and first in the pod, in scoring among blue-liners, with three goals and 15 assists in 17 games played.

Without the Fred Page Cup to focus on, Keith told Peace Arch News earlier this season that the coaches were less worried about wins and losses and more concerned with the development of the team’s young players, as the team looks ahead to what will hopefully be a more traditional season in 2021-22.

“This team never took steps backwards. We stumbled a few times but we managed to keep pushing forward,” he said, in a statement posted to the team’s official website shortly after Sunday’s final game.

“This pod season allowed our younger players to establish themselves. Line chemistries were formed and therefore creates an additional level of excitement for next season.”

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