Eagles to face Cowichan in BCHL’s Coastal Conference semifinals
By Nick Greenizan – Peace Arch News
The Surrey Eagles’ first-round playoff opponent is one they’ve become very familiar with lately.
When the BC Hockey League post-season begins Friday, the Birds will square off with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, who finished just one point back of the Eagles for second place in the Coastal Conference.
The conference-champion Powell River Kings will play the fourth-place Coquitlam Express in the Coastal’s other best-of-seven series.
The Eagles and Capitals are no strangers to each other, having played three times in the last month, and five times since Christmas.
And though the Eagles have sat in first place – and second in the entire BCHL – for much of the last two months of the season, the two clubs are extremely close in talent.
Both teams finished with 36 wins on the season, but Surrey managed one more tie than their Vancouver Island rivals, thus securing home-ice advantage for the round.
And once you break the matchup down even further, the gap between the two teams tightens even further. In the offensive department, the Caps scored just five goals more than the Eagles over the 60-game regular season, and defensively, Surrey allowed one goal fewer.
Both teams had outstanding seasons on home ice – the Eagles lost just five of 30 games in regulation time, while Cowichan lost just seven – which may play into the hands of the Peninsula squad considering they have home-ice advantage.
The Eagles are coming off a loss in their final regular-season contest, a 4-2 defeat to the visiting Westside Warriors Friday, but have the entire week to prepare for the Caps.
Against Westside on Friday, Surrey defenceman Steve Koshey opened the scoring 16:46 into the first period, but the Warriors scored three – from David Pope, Marcus Basra and Max French – in the second frame to take the lead. Alex Hagen replied for Surrey near the end of the period to bring the home team to within one, but it was as close as they’d get. French added an empty-net goal with 1:03 to seal the win for the Warriors, who finished out of the playoffs in the Interior Conference with just 53 points.
Andrew Hunt took the loss for Surrey, stopping 21 of 24 shots.
Hunt has a chance to be a difference-maker for the Eagles in the playoffs, after a regular season that saw him play in 52 of 60 games, and finish among the league-leaders in most goaltending statistical categories.
Cowichan, meanwhile, had more of an even split between its goaltenders, as 18-year-old Derek Dunn saw action in 37 games, and Brady Rouleau played 22.
The best-of-seven first-round series begins Friday, 7 p.m. at South Surrey Arena, with Game 2 slated for Saturday night in South Surrey. The series shifts to Cowichan for Games 3 and 4, on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively. If a fifth game is necessary, it will be played Thursday in South Surrey; Game 6 will be back on Vancouver Island Friday, and if the series goes the distance, Game 7 goes March 24.
Capitals’ cup pursuit begins this weekend
Kevin Rothbauer, Citizen
Published: Friday, March 16, 2012
Laden with veteran forwards, this year’s edition of the Cowichan Valley Capitals was built to contend for the British Columbia Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup.
The quest for the cup begins this weekend as the Caps begin their first-round series with the Surrey Eagles.
Games one and two will be played at the South Surrey Arena on Friday and Saturday, and the series will hit the Island Savings Centre on Monday and Tuesday, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m. both nights.
The Caps and Eagles were separated by a single point in the regular-season standings, Surrey grabbing the second seed with 82 points to Cowichan’s 81. In seven meetings during the campaign, Cowichan earned four wins, including two in overtime. The Caps won three of four games in Duncan and one of two in Surrey.
Ingram and fellow associate coach Dale Purinton turned the Caps around from an eighth-place finish in the 2010/11 season to a third-place ranking this year. The Caps went 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 games, while the Eagles closed out with a 5-5-0-0 record.
“I like the way we’re playing right now,” said associate coach Jim Ingram. “Staying at an even keel is important.”
In the playoffs, it’s key to move quickly from one game to the next without getting wrapped up in one result, said Ingram.
“These series happen very, very fast,” he said. “You have to be able to put games behind you or look forward to them, depending on how it’s going for you.”
© Cowichan Valley Citizen 2012
Surrey, Caps sure to produce a speedy series
By Don Bodger – Cowichan News Leader Pictorial
Published: March 13, 2012 7:00 PM
Cowichan Valley Capitals can thank Langley goalie James Barr for having to start their B.C. Hockey League Coastal Conference semifinal playoff series against the Surrey Eagles on the road.
The Caps only needed a win in regulation time or overtime Saturday at Cowichan Arena to claim second place in the Coastal Conference and home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, but Barr had other ideas. He literally Barr-ed the door with 61 saves and the Langley Rivermen escaped with a 2-1 overtime win to bump the Caps down to third place.
The Rivermen received a break in overtime and generated some offense on a power play that produced the winning goal from Mario Puskarich.
The Caps had no trouble scoring the night before in Port Alberni, as they blitzed the Bulldogs 9-4.
But it just wouldn’t go in the net for the Caps against Barr, with the coveted higher placing at stake.
“We kept it real positive in the room and on the bench,’’ said Caps’ associate coach Jim Ingram. “The guys wanted to win so bad, they could taste it.
“It would have been nice to start at home, there’s no doubt about it. At the same time, I can’t really explain what happened. It just happened.’’
The Caps are moving right into their Coastal semifinal playoff at Surrey Friday. Both sides are expecting a collision of high-powered attacks.
“I think it’ll be a fun series for the fans to watch,’’ said Ingram. “There’s two pretty explosive teams playing against each other. They’ve got speed, we’ve got speed.’’
“I think it’s going to be a really exciting fast-paced series,’’ agreed Surrey coach Matt Erhart.
“I think our games in Duncan have been pretty high-paced games, both teams taking turns carrying stretches of play.’’
Opening the series on the larger Surrey rink means more space, but shooters sometimes wind up setting up farther away from the scoring areas, according to Erhart.
The Caps have been strong on the road and aren’t worried about opening in Surrey.
“We’ve played pretty well over in their building,’’ said Ingram. “We can skate as well as they can. It looks good for our cycle game down low.’’
Both teams boast plenty of playoff experience. Surrey has nine players back from the team that ventured deep into the playoffs last season.
“Experience helps and you expect your leadership guys to lead the way,’’ said Erhart.
Surrey also has some great young players. “Three of our top six forwards are 17 and 18,’’ pointed out Erhart.
The Caps have two of the top four playoff scorers from last season in Brett Knowles and Richard Vanderhoek. They also have captain Devin Gannon who made a great run with Knowles in Salmon Arm last season and Darrin Robak, who was on a national championship team in Vernon.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in our older guys,’’ said Gannon.
“I don’t think home ice is going to determine the winner of this series.
“Every playoff game is going to be a defensive battle. You want to keep goals out of our net. I think our power guys have defensive smarts, too.’’
Strategies will be set this week after practice and video reviews, but not necessarily followed once trends start to occur in games.
“We can match lines all we want,’’ said Gannon. “I’m not worried about putting anyone out against anyone else.’’
“By Friday, the first TV timeout, it’ll all be out the window,’’ said Erhart of the game plan.