For the second time in as many years – and the third time in the last four – the Surrey Eagles’ hockey season has ended at the hands of the Powell River Kings.
Monday at Powell River’s Hap Parker Arena, the Eagles failed to score in a 3-0 Game 5 loss, dropping the series 4-1.
Kings forward Evan Richardson – who scored three times and added an assist in the five-game series – opened the scoring for the home side Monday night, just 3:13 into the game, and teammate Daniel Schuler doubled the Powell River lead 15 minutes later on the power play. Neither team scored in the second period, and Kings forward Cohen Adair scored an insurance goal with 3:05 left in the game.
The Eagles failed to get any pucks past Powell River goalie Sean Maguire, who stopped 27 shots to earn his second shutout of the series.
Powell River now moves on to battle the Penticton Vees for the Fred Page Cup and the title of BC Hockey League champion.
The Eagles, meanwhile, return home wondering what happened to derail a season that, at many times throughout the year, had them sitting second only to the record-setting Vees among the BCHL elite.
They finished second to Powell River in the regular season, though they led the Coastal Conference for much of the year.
“It’s tough, because the end of the season always comes so abruptly. You’re always planning to move on, and win the next game, so when it ends, it ends pretty quick,” Eagles coach Matt Erhart said. “We battled hard, we had a great season, but we just came up a little bit short.”
The Eagles haven’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since winning the Fred Page Cup in 2004/05, though that streak is a bit misleading, considering this post-season had one less playoff round than usual; under normal circumstances, the conference finals would be the third round.
And while the Eagles thrived with a balanced scoring attack during the season – their leading scorer, Tyler Morley, was just 24th in league scoring but they had five players with at least 15 goals – the offence all but dried up against the Kings in Round 2.
Twice Surrey was shutout by 3-0 scores, and they managed just six goals over the five-game series. Erhart was not one to make excuses for the lack of offence, but did point out that missing so many regular contributors due to injury did not help. Forward Brandon Morley missed the entire series, fellow forwards Brandon Tanev and Alex Hagen missed three games each, and defenceman Matt Cronin and checking forward Colton Mackie each missed two games.
“We were banged up, for sure,” Erhart said. “But we still had chances. In our two games at home, I think we had 93 shots. We just hit posts, didn’t get the bounces, and just had a lack of finish around the net.”
The Eagles will lose a good chunk of the team’s core players to the NCAA next season, including team captain Tyler Morley (Alaska-Fairbanks), all-star goaltender Andrew Hunt (Clarkson), top-pairing defenceman Steve Koshey (Alabama-Huntsville), Tanev (Providence), Cronin (Merrimack), Hagen (St. Lawrence) and Brayden Jaw (Harvard).
Returnees include blue-liners Devon Toews – who led the team in playoff scoring and whom Erhart calls one of the BCHL’s best defencemen – and Beau Orser, and forwards Sean McGovern, Demico Hannoun, Brandon Morley and Eric Chevrier.
“It’s kind of the same every year – you lose guys and people wonder how you’re going to replace them,” Erhart said. “But that’s the fun of junior hockey. We’ll have a good veteran group coming back.”