Surrey Eagles goaltender Mario Cavaliere – shown here earlier in the season against the Cowichan Valley Capitals – made 46 saves in a win Saturday night against Prince George. (Garrett James photo)

Eagles earn split with Spruce Kings in first two games of BCHL playoff series

Games 3 and 4 set for South Surrey Arena Monday and Tuesday

The Surrey Eagles wrangled home-ice advantage away from the Prince George Spruce Kings on the weekend, earning a split in two games at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.

The series didn’t exactly start positively for the visiting Birds, however. In Game 1 of the BC Hockey League second-round series Friday night, Surrey lost in lopsided fashion – by a 9-1 score – but rebounded nicely in the rematch Saturday night, winning 3-2 in Game 2.

Though the Kings, by virtue of their first-place finish in the Mainland Division, entered the series with home-ice advantage, the Eagles now have the edge; after a win and a loss in Prince George, three of the next five games are scheduled for South Surrey.

“Anytime you start on the road, the goal is to at least get one of the two (wins). You always want two out of two, but you can’t be too greedy,” said Eagles head coach Brandon West.

“You’ll take a split on the road anytime.”

The best-of-seven series now shifts to the Semiahmoo Peninsula for Games 3 and 4. The third game is set to hit the ice at South Surrey Arena tonight (Monday), and Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday. The puck drops at 7 p.m. both nights.

He was particularly pleased that his squad was able to rebound Saturday after a less-than-stellar Game 1 performance that saw the Spruce Kings score early and often – they scored twice in the first six minutes of the game, and added five unanswered tallies in the third period to put the game on ice.

Eagles starting goaltender Mario Cavaliere stopped 33 of 39 shots he faced, before he was relieved early in the third period by Daniel Davidson. Surrey’s lone goal came from defenceman Jackson Ross, midway through the first period to make it 2-1 Prince George.

“We chased the game right from the get-go on Friday night. I think the speed of the game really caught us standing still,” West said. “We were the victim of a lot of bounces not going our way, and we never earned any bounces of our own. The guys owned it right after the game, and we flipped the page and prepared for Game 2.

“I thought our competitive level was much higher (Saturday), and we got a better game from every single guy. We were a totally different hockey team on Saturday night… and it’s a whole new series now that we were able to win.”

Unlike Friday night’s offensive explosion, Saturday’s tilt started slower, with neither team scoring in the opening 20 minutes. In the second, however, the Eagles – who defeated the Langley Rivermen in the first round of the playoffs – took their first lead of the series when Desi Burgart scored his ninth of the playoffs, on the power play.

Aaron White made it 2-0 Birds five minutes later, giving the visitors a two-goal cushion after 40 minutes.

In the third, Prince George mounted a comeback, with goals from Ethan de Jong and Ben Brar sandwiched around a John Wesley tally for Surrey. Brar’s goal game with just one second remaining in the game.

Cavaliere, like most of his teammates, had a strong rebound game, stopping 46 shots, including 15 of 17 in the third.

“He had a chance to bounce back from his game on Friday night and he did,” said West.

“That’s what a No. 1 goaltender is supposed to do for you – give you a chance to win. And he gave us a chance on Saturday night.”

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