The Surrey Eagles are just one game away from advancing to the second round of B.C. Hockey League playoffs, after winning three straight against the Coquitlam Express.
Surrey opened the series with a 4-2 win at South Surrey Arena Friday, and followed that with a 4-1 victory the next night, also at home. On Monday, the Peninsula squad stretched their lead in the best-of-seven showdown to 3-0 with a convincing 7-1 thrashing of the Express at the Coquitlam Sports Centre.
The Eagles had the chance to clinch the series in Game 4 Tuesday night in Coquitlam. Results were not available by press deadline. If a fifth game is necessary, it will be played Thursday at South Surrey Arena.
Through the first three games of the series, special teams has keyed the Eagles’ victories.
The Eagles are five-for-13 with on the power play in the series – a 38 per cent success rate – while the Express have yet to score with a Surrey player in the penalty box, at 0-for-19. Surrey’s penalty killers were especially strong Monday – Coquitlam was 0-for-9.
In front of their home fans Friday night, the Eagles came out clearly energized, outshooting the Express 13-8 in the first period. In fact, they were unlucky to only be tied 1-1 after 20 minutes. Richard Vanderhoek scored the game’s first goal, but Coquitlam captain Riley McIntosh tied the game at the 14:56 mark, beating Eagles’ netminder Karel St. Laurent with a shot off the rush.
Surrey regained the lead early in the middle frame, however, when Brad McGowan – who finished four points off the league scoring lead during the regular season – scored from down near the goal line, powering toward the net before deftly lifting a shot over Express netminder Khaleed Devji’s shoulder from in close.
Surrey captain Tyler Morley made it 3-1 with a power-play marker just over a minute later, and McGowan – who also assisted on Vanderhoek’s tally – added his second of the game midway through the third period.
The next night, it was again Vanderhoek and McGowan – both Langley natives and former minor hockey teammates – who led the Eagles’ charge. Vanderhoek had two goals while McGowan added one goal and two helpers.
Jeff Vanderlugt rounded out the scoring for Surrey.
Monday in Coquitlam, McGowan – who leads the league in playoff scoring with eight points – had another goal and assist, as did Vanderlugt. Robert Lindores – who had just nine goals and 21 points in the regular season – paced the attacked with two goals and one helper.
Morley and Scott Holm added singles to round out Surrey’s scoring barrage.
And while the Eagles have had little trouble scoring so far in the series, St. Laurent has also been a difference-maker in net for the Birds. He was solid in both efforts on home ice, stopping 33 shots Friday and 25 of 26 in Game 2, and was named the first star of the third win after stopping 23 of 24 Express shots.