The best in B.C. are also the best in the west.
The Surrey Eagles, champions of the British Columbia Hockey League for the fourth time, added the inaugural Western Canada Cup to their trophy case, and will take aim at a second RBC Cup when the puck drops in Summerside, P.E.I.
“We’re finally going to where we want to be,” Eagles goaltender Michael Santaguida told the Nanaimo Daily News after the Eagles beat the Brooks Bandits, the No. 1 ranked team in Canada, 4-1 in the final of the regional tournament.
The win sends Surrey back to Summerside, where it competed at the 1997 Royal Bank Cup. The Eagles, led by future NHLer Scott Gomez and all-time BCHL scoring leader Shane Kuss, reached the championship game of Canada’s National Junior A Championship, only to fall 4-3 to the host Western Capitals.
They returned one year later and got that elusive last win, claiming their lone national title with a 4-1 victory over the Weyburn Red Wings.
The 2012-13 edition of the Eagles was the BCHL’s best during the regular season; despite never winning more than four games in a row, Surrey finished atop the standings with a 35-13-8 record, posting the league’s fourth-best offence and third-best defence.
But it was the playoffs where the Eagles really took flight. From Game 3 of its first-round series with the Langley Rivermen to Game 2 of the BCHL final against the Penticton Vees, Surrey rattled off 11 consecutive wins.
The postseason run was capped by an Adam Tambellini double-overtime winner in Game 6 against the Vees, ending Penticton’s reign as national champions and earning the Eagles their first BCHL title since 2005.
After a tournament-opening loss to Brooks at the Western Canada Cup, Surrey beat Steinbach, Nanaimo and Yorkton to set up a rematch against the Bandits, this time with a spot at the RBC Cup on the line.
“By the end of the round robin and in the final we were playing really well again,” said Eagles coach Matt Erhart. “We allowed two goals in the final three games and scored between three and four goals in each game – we were playing good hockey. Once we were there and saw we had a good chance to win, we wanted to win it. We didn't want to settle for the second seed.”
The Eagles controlled the action against the top-ranked Bandits, scoring the game’s first four goals and getting 40 saves from Santaguida to become the fifth B.C. team in as many years to win its way to the RBC Cup.
The win over the Bandits was the third over teams that finished the regular season ranked higher than Surrey in the CJHL Top 20. In addition to No. 1 Brooks, the Eagles beat No.5 Yorkton in the Western Canada Cup preliminary round and ousted No. 7 Penticton in the BCHL final.
“I think we got as high as 14th in the rankings but we were never given a chance or listed above Penticton or Victoria all year,” Surrey defenceman Devon Toews told Surrey Now. “It shows what a team can do sometimes. We beat three of the top 10 teams in the Canadian rankings. Now we want to finish ranked number one by winning the RBC. We won't have any trouble getting up for the games from now on.”
If the Eagles need to know what it takes to win a national championship, they need look no further than behind their bench; Erhart was a defenceman on the 1998 team that won the national title.
HOW THEY GOT TO SUMMERSIDE
British Columbia Hockey League
Preliminary round: defeated Langley 3-1 (2-0, 0-1, 6-2, 6-3)
Quarter-final: defeated Chilliwack 3-0 (4-0, 5-4, 3-2 OT)
Semifinal: defeated Alberni Valley 4-0 (1-0, 3-2 OT, 3-2 OT, 5-2)
BCHL championship: defeated Penticton 4-2 (5-2, 2-0, 2-3, 2-3, 2-1 OT, 3-2 2OT)
Western Canada Cup
Preliminary round: 3-1 – 2nd place (lost to Brooks 4-2, defeated Steinbach 5-3, defeated Nanaimo 4-0, defeated Yorkton 3-1)
Final: defeated Brooks 4-1
Regular Season Record: 35-13-8 (1st in BCHL)
Goals For: 195 (4th in BCHL)
Goals Against: 149 (3rd in BCHL)
Power Play: 48 of 262 (18.3% - 12th in BCHL)
Penalty Killing: 176 of 214 (82.2 - 4th in BCHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 4 (Nov. 1-9; Nov. 23-30; Dec. 28-Jan. 4)
Top 3 Scorers:
Playoff Record: 18-4
Goals For: 72
Goals Against: 38
Power Play: 17 for 92 (18.5%)
Penalty Killing: 62 of 72 (86.1%)
Top 3 Scorers:
NATIONAL JUNIOR A CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
1998 – South Surrey Eagles | national champions | 6-0 | 32GF 7GA
1997 – South Surrey Eagles | runners-up | 4-2 | 26GF 21GA
PLAYERS TO WATCH
has ability to steal games … good composure and poise … quick glove … good lateral quickness … very good work ethic … makes a lot of second-effort saves … stays square to the puck
smooth skater … confident with the puck … very good offensive timing … good bloodlines … takes advantage of time and space … very good anticipation … good, crisp execution on pucks
quick two-way defenceman … excellent acceleration … very good vision with the puck … difficult to beat in one-on-one situations … dangerous offensive option … confident with the puck
Drew Best – University of Vermont (2015-16)
Demico Hannoun – Michigan Tech University (2013-14)
Jordan Klimek – Northern Michigan University (2014-15)
Brett Mulcahy – Holy Cross University (2014-15)
Dan O’Keefe – Yale University (2014-15)
Michael Stenerson – University of Vermont (2013-14)
Adam Tambellini – University of North Dakota (2013-14)
Devon Toews – Quinnipiac University (2013-14)
Craig Wyszomirski – Merrimack College (2013-14)