The Surrey Eagles’ season is over, after a Game 7 loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings Sunday night.
The Semiahmoo Peninsula-based BC Hockey League squad – who played the final game of the series without leading scorer Desi Burgart, who was injured in Game 6 – was shut out Sunday, 4-0. Just a day earlier, the Birds had a chance to close out the series on home ice, but lost 3-1 at South Surrey Arena.
It was the third straight loss in the series for Surrey, who had a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven showdown through four games last week. The team dropped a 4-1 decision in Prince George Thursday night.
With the team in transit from Prince George overnight Sunday and into the early hours of Monday morning, Surrey Eagles coach Brandon West could not be reached by Peace Arch News, but after the game Sunday, posted on Twitter that he was “Very proud of our players and their commitment to being a great team.”
“We expired tonight but this was one helluva season,” he continued.
Prince George now moves on to the BCHL’s Coastal Conference finals, where they’ll play the Powell River Kings. The winner of that series advances to the Fred Page Cup finals, against the champions of the eight-team Interior Division.
Sunday’s do-or-die final game – played after a 750-km trip north, less than 24 hours after the final buzzer sounded in Game 6 – saw the Spruce Kings jump out to an early lead, on a goal from Ethan de Jong just 3:35 into the first period, and the slim, one-goal margin stay intact all the way through to the third, as neither team bulged the twine in the second period.
Eagles’ goalie Mario Cavaliere was a big reason the scored stayed close in that middle frame, as the veteran keeper – who was acquired from Ontario at the trade deadline – stopped all 15 shots fired his way, while the Eagles managed just three of their own on Prince George’s Evan DeBrouwer.
The one-goal cushion lasted nearly the entire third period, too, and wasn’t until de Jong scored again – his second of the game and ninth of the playoffs – that the gap widened. Just 23 seconds after the 2-0 goal, the Spruce Kings got a third from Ben Brar into an empty net; the Eagles had pulled Cavaliere early in favour of an extra attacker.
Nolan Welsh put the game out of reach in the final minute to round out the scoring and send the Eagles home.
Saturday’s game was just as close, but unlike Sunday’s finale that featured no goals in the middle period, all the scoring in this one came in the second – within a 16-minute window.
Prince George scored the first three – Brar first, followed by two from de Jong – and the Eagles finally got on the board with 41 seconds left on a power-play goal from Matthew Campese.
The Eagles couldn’t carry the momentum into the third, however, and couldn’t beat DeBrouwer despite firing 10 shots his way.
For the Eagles, Game 6 featured a pair of important returns – captain Jordan Robert and defenceman Cory Babicuk both slotted back into the lineup after weeks-long injury-related absences – but the team’s return to health didn’t even last a full 60 minutes.
Midway through the third period, Burgart – whose 10 goals in 12 games led all scorers in BCHL playoffs – suffered a head injury on a hit from Spruce Kings’ Liam Watson-Brawn. Watson-Brawn was assessed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for delivering a blow to the head, was later suspended four games, while Burgart missed the rest of Game 6 and all of Game 7.
For the season, 2017/18 marked the Eagles’ first playoff appearance in four years, and their first-round victory over the Langley Rivermen boosted them into the second round for the first time since their league-championship season of 2012/13. That year, Surrey won both the BCHL and western region titles – beating Alberta’s Brooks Bandits in the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup – to advance to the RBC Cup national tournament.
Since then, the team has struggled – including back-to-back seasons of single-digit win totals – but righted the ship this season under West, who joined the team last summer.
After Sunday’s loss, the Eagles’ official Twitter account sent a congratulatory message to the Spruce Kings, while also touting the job West did this season with a #CoachOfTheYear hashtag.
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