The Surrey Eagles are flying high after a weekend sweep of Vancouver Island opponents boosted them to fourth place in the BC Hockey League’s Mainland Division.
On Sunday, the suddenly red-hot Eagles – winners of four straight games – defeated the Cowichan Valley Capitals 7-3. That win came just 24 hours after a similar offensive outburst gave the Birds a 6-2 victory over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Saturday night in Port Alberni.
Before embarking on their Island trip, Surrey edged the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings 2-1 in double-overtime Thursday at South Surrey Arena.
“It was a great weekend, and we’re feeling pretty confident right now,” said Eagles coach Blaine Neufeld.
And while any win is a welcome one – the four-game win streak is the team’s longest in more than two seasons – the two weekend victories were even more impressive considering they came on the road.
Until the trip, just one of the team’s wins had come away from home.
Twice in recent weeks, Neufeld stressed the important of finding success on the road, away from the larger ice surface at South Surrey Arena. Specifically, he’s noted his team needs to simplify its game on the road, while also finding “inner grit.”
“I think going to the Island, we saw it as a stepping stone for us to find some confidence on the road,” Neufeld said. “We knew heading into Alberni that, if we played our game, it was a game we should win.”
Surrey now sports a 9-12-2-0 record (win-loss-overtime loss-tie), which puts them into a fourth-place tie with the Langley Rivermen in the Mainland Division. The nine wins are also two more than they had all of last season.
Their road record also improved to 3-10-1-0.
The recent victories only reinforced what Neufeld has said is his team’s long-term goal – to win the Mainland Division title. And though they may be in tough to achieve that goal considering division-leading Wenatchee is a stellar 17-2, Neufeld said it’s a target nonetheless.
In the meantime, they’ll focus on getting their record to .500 by the end of the month.
“We’ve created some mini-goals for ourselves, and that’s one of them,” he said.
On Sunday, the Eagles peppered Cowichan netminder Adam Marcoux with 42 shots, and got two goals from captain Paul McAvoy en route to the victory.
Despite the lopsided end result, it was the Capitals that got on the board first – on a goal from Max Newton late in the first period – and the home team led by one heading into the first intermission.
The Eagles took over in the second frame, however, outscoring the Caps 4-2 on goals from Desi Burgart, McAvoy, Ashton Calder and Darius Davidson. Davidson also added two assists in the game to give him a team-best 27 points in 23 games this season.
In the third period, Surrey tacked on three more goals, from Dario Piva, McAvoy again, and newcomer Mike Sauer.
Michael Botiz got the win between the pipes, stopping 29 shots.
Against Alberni Valley – which sits last in the Island Divison and the entire BCHL – Logan Mostat was the offensive catalyst for the visiting Eagles, scoring a pair to help Surrey to a 3-2 lead after two periods of play.
In the decisive third frame, McAvoy scored twice himself and Jacob Dupont found the back of the net to secure the victory.
Daniel Davidson stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced to earn the win in net for the Eagles.
In contrast to the 13-goal outburst against Island competition, Thursday’s home victory against the Spruce Kings was a nail-biter.
Prince George’s Chong Lee and Darius Davidson traded goals in the first period, but the game was scoreless over the final two periods as well as the first overtime session.
In the double-OT frame, defenceman Nick Minerva broke the deadlock, scoring his fourth goal of the season on a quick wrist shot on net.
“I was actually going to open up and take a snapshot,” he explained.
“(The puck) was too close to my feet, so my brain just told me to shoot it, and that’s what I did (and) it went in.”
Neufeld said the key to his team’s recent success has been a renewed commitment to being unselfish on the ice, especially in the offensive end.
“The guys are buying in, and they don’t care who’s getting the goal, as long as we’re getting more than the other team,” he said, pointing to the team’s sixth goal against Cowichan as an example.
McAvoy scored the goal into an empty net after receiving a pass from Calder on a two-on-one rush.
“The net was empty, and (Calder) could’ve easily just scored it himself, but he threw it over to Paul instead,” Neufeld explained.
The Eagles will look to extend their win streak this week when they host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Thursday at South Surrey Arena.
They’ll head north after that, with a game scheduled for Saturday in Prince George and Sunday afternoon in Merritt against the Centennials.
Last week, prior to their Thursday game, the Eagles acquired forward Michael Sauer from the La Ronge Ice Wolves of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, in exchange for future considerations.
Sauer, who turned 20 on Tuesday, is a native of Minnesota. Prior to being dealt to La Ronge, he played two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Neufeld called the five-foot-11, 170-pound Sauer “a terrific playmaker” who “will add even more depth to the team’s scoring ability.”
Sauer has one goal and one assist since joining the Eagles.
Player of week
Eagles forward Jeff Stewart was honoured by the BCHL early last week for his play the previous weekend.
Stewart, a Semiahmoo Minor Hockey alum, was named the league’s player of the week for the week ending Nov. 6. Stewart had a five-point week – including a hat trick against Vernon – and helped lead the Eagles to two wins in three games.
Stewart’s linemate Darius Davidson was named in the same BCHL press release as an “honorable mention,” after scoring once and adding seven assists in the same three games.