Eagles to face Cowichan in BCHL's Coastal Conference semifinals
The Surrey Eagles’ first-round playoff opponent is one they’ve become very familiar with lately.
When the BC Hockey League post-season begins Friday, the Birds will square off with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, who finished just one point back of the Eagles for second place in the Coastal Conference.
The conference-champion Powell River Kings will play the fourth-place Coquitlam Express in the Coastal’s other best-of-seven series.
The Eagles and Capitals are no strangers to each other, having played three times in the last month, and five times since Christmas.
And though the Eagles have sat in first place – and second in the entire BCHL – for much of the last two months of the season, the two clubs are extremely close in talent.
Both teams finished with 36 wins on the season, but Surrey managed one more tie than their Vancouver Island rivals, thus securing home-ice advantage for the round.
And once you break the matchup down even further, the gap between the two teams tightens even further. In the offensive department, the Caps scored just five goals more than the Eagles over the 60-game regular season, and defensively, Surrey allowed one goal fewer.
Both teams had outstanding seasons on home ice – the Eagles lost just five of 30 games in regulation time, while Cowichan lost just seven – which may play into the hands of the Peninsula squad considering they have home-ice advantage.
The Eagles are coming off a loss in their final regular-season contest, a 4-2 defeat to the visiting Westside Warriors Friday, but have the entire week to prepare for the Caps.
Against Westside on Friday, Surrey defenceman Steve Koshey opened the scoring 16:46 into the first period, but the Warriors scored three – from David Pope, Marcus Basra and Max French – in the second frame to take the lead. Alex Hagen replied for Surrey near the end of the period to bring the home team to within one, but it was as close as they’d get. French added an empty-net goal with 1:03 to seal the win for the Warriors, who finished out of the playoffs in the Interior Conference with just 53 points.
Andrew Hunt took the loss for Surrey, stopping 21 of 24 shots.
Hunt has a chance to be a difference-maker for the Eagles in the playoffs, after a regular season that saw him play in 52 of 60 games, and finish among the league-leaders in most goaltending statistical categories.
Cowichan, meanwhile, had more of an even split between its goaltenders, as 18-year-old Derek Dunn saw action in 37 games, and Brady Rouleau played 22.
The best-of-seven first-round series begins Friday, 7 p.m. at South Surrey Arena, with Game 2 slated for Saturday night in South Surrey. The series shifts to Cowichan for Games 3 and 4, on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively. If a fifth game is necessary, it will be played Thursday in South Surrey; Game 6 will be back on Vancouver Island Friday, and if the series goes the distance, Game 7 goes March 24.