If the Surrey Eagles are to have a lengthy BC Hockey League playoff run this spring, they’ll first have to get past the Nanaimo Clippers.
The Vancouver Island squad will be the Birds’ opening-round opponent when the junior ‘A’ circuit begins its post-season schedule on Friday. The Clippers are the No. 3 seed in the Coastal Conference, while Surrey slots in at No. 6, meaning they’ll start the series on the road.
Game 1 is scheduled for Friday, 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena, while Game 2 will be played the following night, also in Nanaimo. The series shifts to the Semiahmoo Peninsula for Game 3 – 7:30 p.m. Monday at South Surrey Arena – while Game 4 goes Tuesday, also in South Surrey.
Games 5 through 7 – if necessary – will be played April 8, 9 and 11; the first and third games of that stretch will be in Nanaimo, with the Eagles’ hosting Game 6 on April 9 if the series extends that far.
— BCHL (@BCHockeyLeague) March 28, 2022
South Surrey Arena is currently playing host to two different junior-hockey playoff series, as the White Rock Whalers – who are down 3-1 in their best-of-seven championship final against the Langley Trappers – are also using the arena as their home base because the team’s usual home at White Rock’s Centennial Arena has had the ice taken out already, for spring sports such as lacrosse.
The Clippers finished the regular season with a record of 33-17-3-1 (win-loss-overtime loss-shootout loss), which gave them 70 points in the standings – 14 more points that the Eagles, despite only five more regulation victories. Surrey, meanwhile, finished the regular season with a record of 28-26, with no overtime or shootout defeats.
Despite their difference in point totals, the two teams played each other remarkably close during the season, splitting the six-game season series evenly, with each team winning three games. All six games were decided in regulation time, and each team also has at least one victory in the other’s home rink, which could bode well for the Eagles, as they do not have home-ice advantage.
Under head coach Cam Keith – who is in his third season at the helm of the Eagles’ ship – Surrey has one playoff victory under its belt. In 2020, the Eagles pulled off a come-from-behind win over the Chilliwack Chiefs in seven games.
However, the team did not get the opportunity for a second series win because the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the rest of the BCHL playoffs were cancelled.
Ever since they dominated last spring’s 20-game pod season, Keith has stressed the importance of carrying that momentum forward to this season and, most importantly, the playoffs. Last fall, just prior to the BCHL season hitting the ice, Keith told Peace Arch News that a league title – not just a playoff appearance – was the team’s goal.
“We’re going to be a very dangerous team down the stretch,” Keith said at the time.