Eagles qualify for Western Cup playoffs after back-to-back wins

Surrey Eagles forward Kevan Killistoff moves up ice with the puck during his team
Surrey Eagles forward Kevan Killistoff moves up ice with the puck during his team's 4-0 victory Tuesday against the Nanaimo Clippers.
— image credit: Greg Sakaki photo

After opening the tournament with a loss, the Surrey Eagles now find themselves in good shape at the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup, after two straight wins this week.

The BC Hockey League champions sit in a three-way tie atop the round-robin standings with a 2-1 record. On Monday night at Naniamo’s Frank Crane Arena, the Eagles edged the Steinbach Pistons 5-3 and Tuesday turned in their best effort of the tournament, shutting out the host Nanaimo Clippers 4-0.

The wins guarantee the Eagles will advance from the five-team round-robin into the four-team playoff round of the tournament.

“It’s not really going to change the way we play. We just need to do what we do and hopefully that’s good enough to win,” said Eagles coach Matt Erhart after Tuesday’s victory. “In these short-term tournaments, you’ve got to get better every day, and we’ve done that so far.”

Tuesday, Surrey was led by forward Drew Best, who scored two goals and added an assist.

Neither team scored in the first period, but Best scored twice in the second – Brady Shaw assisted on both – and Adam Tambellini also found the back of the net when his shot from the left circle evaded Nanaimo goalie Jayson Argue.

Michael Stenerson added a fourth goal for the Eagles just 13 seconds into the third period after Argue was caught out of the net trying to play the puck. After Argue misplayed the puck, Best picked it up and threw it out front to Stenerson, who scored into the empty cage.

As he has been throughout the playoffs, Michael Santaguida was between the pipes for Surrey, stopping 31 shots to record his fifth shutout of the post-season.

“We were skating and putting Nanaimo back on their heels and creating good scoring opportunities,” said Erhart, whose team had a day off Wednesday and prepares to play the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion Yorkton Terriers today (Thursday).

And while Erhart was pleased with his team’s Tuesday performance, Nanaimo coach Mike Vandekamp had a decidedly different view of the contest.

“The best part of the game was the anthem,” he said.

“There were stages as the second period progressed where we got outworked a little bit. We didn’t have the same edge to our game that we had had the previous game (against Brooks).”

Against Steinbach Monday, Surrey jumped out to a lead early, scoring twice in the first period on goals from Shaw and Trevor Cameron, and Tambellini added a power-play goal midway through the second to stake the Birds to a 3-0 lead.

Steinbach made it 3-1 before the second intermission, however, on a goal from Nick Kobelka, and the third period was dominated by the Pistons, despite each team scoring twice, including Cameron, who potted his second of the game.

“We had a sluggish start and we were sitting back, waiting for things to happen,” said Pistons coach Paul Dyck.

“We started playing with some urgency and desperation as the game went on… maybe if we had an extra five or 10 minutes, things would’ve went our way.”

From the Eagles’ standpoint, they were just happy to escape with the victory, which kept the BCHL squad from dropping to 0-2 after losing to the Brooks Bandits Saturday afternoon.

“Credit to Steinbach, they really put us on our heels,” Erhart said.

“We turned way too many pucks over, and quite frankly, we just hung on for the win. It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure.”

After the Eagles and Terriers play tonight, Friday is an off day for all teams, before the top four clubs begin the playoff rounds Saturday.

The top two teams from the Western Cup earn a berth in the Royal Bank Cup, set for Summerside, P.E.I.

In playoff rounds, the top two teams from the round-robin will square off, with the winner earning the first RBC berth. The loser will then play the winner of the other first-round playoff game, between the three and four seeds.

– with files from Greg Sakaki

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