The season-ending game for the Surrey Eagles turned out to be a thriller on Thursday night at South Surrey Arena.
Entering the game, the were Eagles sitting in second to last place with 38 points in the Mainland Conference, while the Vees were riding the wave to the Interior Division Title with 84 points.
Surrey started Keelan Williams, who mentioned pre-game that he was “well rested and up to the test”, while the Vees started their backup Nolan Hildebrand.
It’s not always the start that matters, but rather the finish and in this game it was Penticton that jumped out to the early goal a mere 10 seconds in, following the opening face-off.
The Eagles had far more jump than in previous contests and driving to the net was consistent as well as following up capitalizing on any bounces the Vees might give up.
With Family and Friends in attendance Paul McAvoy, Darius Davidson and Ty Westgard came out of the gate flying. Westgard got the first marker on the board at 8:59 in, driving to the net after having Davidson and McAvoy work magic deep in the zone evening the game at one.
With a more urgent style of play, the Eagles managed to get two more prior to the end of the period with Desi Burgart getting his 19th of the season doing it with a solo effort. With Davidson playing his final game as an Eagle after an impressive career in the BCHL, he wasn’t finished working his magic.
Dangling down the wing the trio of McAvoy, Davidson and Westgard again brought the crowd to its’ feet with Davidson getting his 31st of the season.
While this was the final game for some of the Eagles, I had the opportunity to talk with Paul McAvoy’s parents who had flown in from Kentucky to take in his final game of his career. To say the least, they were very proud.
As well as the Eagles played the Vees had several chances only to be turned aside by the stellar play of Williams, who along with Hildebrand both faced 12 shots through one.
Obviously not impressed with either the play of the ‘tender or the team, Vees Head Coach Fred Harbinson put Mat Robson in to start the second.
Penalties can and will be costly, and in this case it was Vees Cruickshank that got his 32nd of the season at 2:21 of the second to get the Vees within one making it a 3-2 contest.
The Eagles had several chances managing to get numerous chances on Robson only to be turned aside, and his impressive play was enough to motivate the Vees.
Miller managed to get a pass from Jones at the 16:31 mark to somewhat deflate the Eagles, but at this point it was clearly anyone’s game.
The second ended with the teams taking a 3-3 draw to the dressing rooms while Robson backstopped the Vees with 10 shots while Williams faced 17 through two, many of which were labeled.
The Vees are number one in their conference for a reason, but that’s not to take away from any firepower that the Eagles managed to throw at them and with both having numerous chances the third ended a scoreless affair.
One could clearly mention that the last minute in the third was entertaining and if not for the play of Robson and Williams, overtime might not have loomed.
The Vees managed to send 42 shots at Williams through three while the Eagles hammered 36 total shots on the Vees, twelve of which were on Hildebrand and the remaining twenty-four were sent special delivery at Robson.
It’s only fitting that the final game of the season for the Eagles would head to O/T so as to entertain the fans that were in attendance and as excited as they could get.
Four on four hockey is exciting and on this night it was like the Eagles were possessed and nothing would or could stop them.
The Eagles coaching staff sent a strong message to the players not only just prior to the start of O/T, but also the start of the game and it was about playing a full 60 minutes and the only time off would be at season’s end.
O/T for the Eagles would see roll the lines every opportunity they had with short shifts for everyone, well except Williams who was more focused that I have ever seen him.
Capitalizing on this, the Eagles managed to catch the Vees on a change with a three on two break heading into the offensive zone.
With the Eagles breaking up ice Domenic Masellis sent a tape to tape pass to McAvoy who in turn cut to his right at the blue line allowing Davidson to fire a rocket past Robson for the O/T game winning goal recording his 32nd of the season.
While the Eagles exploded off the bench to the corner to show excitement the Vees questioned the officials as to why McAvoy was not assessed an interference minor at the blue-line for what they saw as a pick play.
The officials were quick to explain that all McAvoy was doing was cutting to the right to stay on side at the line and with that they left for the dressing room going to Chilliwack without two points.
The Eagles were not only excited heading to O/T they were motivated so much that they managed to hammer seven shots on Vees “tender” Mathew Robson while Williams was untouched in O/T.
The win albeit the season ending game give the Eagles motivation moving forward in the offseason in hopes of putting a winning product on the ice for the 2017-18 BCHL hockey season.
Watching this game and having the luxury of calling the game was a sense of gratification knowing that the team is capable of anything and everything and there’s no end to what they can do.
Great finish to an otherwise frustrating season, but let’s not reflect on the past, but rather the future.
Special thanks to the fans who came out to support the Eagles as well as the numerous volunteers who make the Surrey Eagles a top-notch franchise in the BCHL.
Game stars were truly fitting for this game as all three went to the Eagles and no one at the game could question the choice.
1st Darius Davidson (2 goals/1 assist)
2nd Paul McAvoy (3 assists)
3rd Keelan Williams (39 saves on 42 shots)
FortisBC Energy Player of the Game
Domenic Masellis (1 assist – consistent and steady play)
I personally wish to thank the parents who sent messages over the season, and wish them all the best for the families and players moving forward!