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Eagles clinch BCHL playoff berth after pair of wins

The Surrey Eagles have soared back into the BC Hockey League playoffs after four seasons spent on the outside looking in.

The first-place Birds – who sit tied with the Prince George Spruce Kings atop the league’s Mainland Division – officially clinched a berth in the post-season after two wins on the weekend: a 4-1 win over the Coquitlam Express Saturday at South Surrey Arena, and a 1-0 victory Sunday afternoon over the visiting Nanaimo Clippers.

The team has now won seven straight games at home.

And though this year’s BCHL playoff format sees all but one team in the five-team division qualify for the post-season, it’s no less of an accomplishment for the Eagles, whose struggles in recent years have been well-documented. Since a first-round, six-game playoff exit in 2013/14, the team has three last-place finishes, and two of those seasons finished with win totals in single digits.

This season, however, the team sits with a record of 24-16-4-2 (win-loss-overtime loss-tie).

“It’s nice to clinch…The players are excited, the organization is excited, the fans are excited,” said Eagles head coach Brandon West.

“We set a goal at the beginning of the season to make the playoffs, and once you make them, you reset your goals. Our focus right now though isn’t on the playoffs – it’s about going down this stretch (of the regular season) and continuing to build on good habits and fine-tune our game, and definitely get healthy as well.

“We want to make sure we’re doing most of the heavy lifting here now, before (playoffs) start.”

On the health front, the Birds are struggling, with a handful of players out of the lineup with a variety of injuries and illnesses.

Newcomer Dryden Michaud – acquired at the trade deadline after being cut from the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades – has been battling the flu ever since arriving on the Peninsula.

Another deadline acquisition, WHL defenceman Ty Schultz, is still rehabbing from a serious leg injury suffered a year ago, though West said his return is “getting closer by the day.”

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