Surrey Eagles advance on Tanev OT marker
You know what they say - the third time's the charm.
The Surrey Eagles certainly subscribe to that cliche after a 3-2 overtime win over the Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday night in South Surrey. Brandon Tanev's marker, on a three-on-two rush at 3:42 of overtime, gave the Birds a 4-3 series win and a date with the Powell River Kings in the BC Hockey League Coastal Conference finals, which begin today (Tuesday).
Saturday's win was the Eagles' third straight attempt to eliminate Cowichan. On Thursday in South Surrey, up 3-1 in the series, the Eagles lost 2-1, and Friday in Duncan, with another chance to ice the series, they lost in overtime when goaltender Andrew Hunt - who'd been brilliant throughout the series - mishandled a puck that Caps' Vinny Muto deposited into the net, giving Cowichan life for another day.
Surrey had much better luck Saturday, although some of the 1,000-plus Eagles fans in attendance could be forgiven for thinking the game might slip away.
As they did in Thursday's loss, Surrey nursed a one-goal lead for much of the game Saturday, but it only held until the final minute when Cowichan's Brett Knowles tied the game 2-2 on a shorthanded goal, and sent the visitors into the intermission with momentum.
But Tanev's goal, with assists to Tyler Morley and Brett Mulcahy, ended any hope of Cowichan completing the comeback.
"I really thought we played our best game of the series Friday, even though we lost. But the guys weren't worried. There was nobody saying, 'oh, no, Game 7.' They were excited for it, and to be playing at home," Erhart said.
"But the series what I expected it to be, because both teams are so close. Even when we were up, I didn't feel like we had total control of it.
"With overtimes, some bounces, some good goals, great goaltending... over seven games, this was quite a series."
Hunt was again the story for Surrey, earning first-star honours in the series-clinching win after stopping 42 shots on net, including one big stop early in overtime.
He finished the series with a 3.13 goals-against average – a number inflated due to small sample size and by allowing five goals in the Eagles' 7-5 Game 4 win.
"You don't win in the playoffs without great goaltending. Over the course of a long series, there's always a goal or two you'd like back, but he gave us a chance to win every single night," Erhart continued.
Alex Hagen, who'd been held to a single assist in the first six games of the series, scored the Eagles' other two goals. Steven Iacobellis scored Cowichan's first, near the end of the second period.
In Friday's loss, Eagles' rookie defenceman Devon Toews led the way with his first career hat-trick, and finished the series as the team's leading playoff scorer with eight points in seven games.
"He's been really good for us, especially the second half of the season and into the playoffs. Even at 17, I think he's one of the best defencemen in the league," Erhart said. "Him and (Steve) Koshey, as a pair, played some big minutes for us. They were both great."
The Eagles only had two days to prepare for their next opponent, Powell River, who won the other Coastal semifinal 4-2 over the Coquitlam Express. The Eagles travel to Powell River for Game 1 tonight. Game 2 will be played in Powell River Wednesday, and the series shifts back to South Surrey for games on Friday and Saturday.
This will be the second year in a row Surrey and Powell River have faced off the Coastal Conference finals. Last year, Powell won the series in six games.
"There's about 10 guys still here from last year, so this has a bit of a rematch/revenge feel for them, and we're looking forward to getting after it," Erhart said.