Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rivermen 6 Eagles 1

Three power-play goals, and a four-point night from veteran Tyson Witala helped the Langley Rivermen eliminate the Eagles with a 6-1 victory at South Surrey Arena Tuesday.

The Rivermen fired 45 shots at Surrey netminder Bo Didur en route to a six-game series win.

Langley opened the scoring on an Evan Anderson wrist shot 6 and a half minutes in, then nearly took a 2-0 lead when Witala attemped a wrap-around only to be thwarted by Didur at his left post four minutes later. The Rivermen came close yet again later in the frame, having a goal disallowed after the puck wildly caromed off a high stick in the slot.

The Eagles were frustrated by Langley's defense Tuesday, finding themselves parried by a slough of blocked shots, eleven of which came in the first period.

Langley's special teams took over in the second, the first of their three power-play markers coming on a point blast from Victor Dombrovskiy just shy of the midway mark.

Witala added a third Rivermen goal on a rebound in front of Didur 1:59 before the break, then potted a second 39 seconds into the third period to give Langley a 4-0 lead.

Langley native Danton Heinen got the Eagles on the board at the four-minute mark of the third, firing home a centring pass from Anthony Conti from the bottom of the left circle.

But the determined Rivermen kept coming, and kept scoring, adding a fifth on a right-wing snapper from Austin Azurdia before Darien Craighead rounded out the scoring, banging home a loose puck from the slot 3:46 from time.

Didur made 39 saves in goal for Surrey, many bordering on the unmathematical. Brock Crossthwaite stopped 25 shots in the Langley net.

Langley will face the Coquitlam Express in the Mainland division final.

My Three Stars:
1. Tyson Witala, Langley
2. Jakob Reichert, Langley
3. Brock Crossthwaite, Langley

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

GAMEDAY: Eagles vs. Rivermen

Mainland Division Semi-Final, Game 6
Who: Surrey Eagles vs. Langley Rivermen
When: March 11, 7:00 pm
Where: South Surrey Arena

Pay-Per-View: FAST Hockey
Radio: Ustream

For the first time in this Mainland Division semi-final, a team faces elimination as the Eagles host Langley in Game Six tonight at South Surrey Arena. A 3-0 victory for the Rivermen Monday gave them a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series; another win tonight would end Surrey's season and put Langley through to the second round of the BCHL playoffs.

Brock Crossthwaite was the man of the hour Monday, stopping 36 Eagles shots to record the shutout, while shifty forward Austin Azurdia scored the deciding goals in a span of 1:37 halfway through the game. Like champion prize-fighters, these sides continue to attack at one another blow for blow, and tonight, on home ice, Surrey gets a chance to strike even again.

As they celebrate their 20th birthdays, watch for Jonah and Nathan Renouf to dig deeper this evening. The pair have been held goal-less since the first period of Game 3, though both have enjoyed chances from close range when not battling the checks of Langley's top line of Mitch McLain, Jakob Reichert and Matt Ustaski. Winger Joe Drapluk may have been Surrey's best forward in Game Five, throwing his body hap-hazardly in front of shots, creating turnovers, and nearly putting the Eagles on the board on a third period breakaway.

Both teams made few mistakes Monday, and as the stakes intensify, watch for that to continue. The Eagles have been able to open up the pace of play on home ice in the series as well, and in Game Four, it paid massive dividends.

It's a must-win game for Surrey, and it's one you won't want to miss.

Last Meeting: A two-minute spell midway through last night's second period broke Game Five open, with Azurdia scoring his first goals of the series. Including the regular season, last night's game also marked the first time either team has been shut out in the 13 meetings in 2013-14.

Our Opponent: Langley's net-crashing style of offense paid off Monday, with the Rivermen not shy at all about entering Eagles goaltender Bo Didur's crease on the rush. Bobby Henderson's second line captured lightning in a bottle Monday, with Azurdia easily the most dynamic forward among his group on the ice at both ends of the rink, while linemate James Robinson was also dangerous in the offensive zone. Game Five was the first in the series in which 6'6" centreman Matt Ustaski did not record a point; he leads all scorers in the best-of-seven with six goals and nine points.

Rivermen 3 Eagles 0

Austin Azurdia scored twice, including the game-winner 8:09 into the second period, and Brock Crossthwaite made 36 saves as the Langley Rivermen shut out the Eagles 3-0 in Game 5 of their Mainland Division semi-final.

With the win, Langley now enjoys a 3-2 series lead with the Eagles now facing elimination in Tuesday's Game 6.

Monday's game was calculated, even, and conservative as both sides were reluctant to make mistakes in their own zone. A tense first period ended scoreless with both Crossthwaite and Bo Didur making difficult stops, in particular the Surrey netminder off hard drives to the goalmouth.

Langley found their breakthrough just past the 8-minute mark of the second. Forward James Robinson, while driving behind the net, knocked the stick out of Didur's hands, and on the ensuing wrap-around found Azurdia alone just outside the crease for his first goal of the playoffs.

Azurdia added a second 1:37 later when, on a rush down the left-wing side, his shot toward Didur's goal caromed in off an Eagles skater.

Surrey fired anything and everything at Crossthwaite's net the other way, including on a five-minute power-play late in period two after Langley captain Mitch McLain was ejected for a goaltender interference penalty. The Rivermen netminder stood tall throughout Monday's game, though, including a 15-save performance in the third period.

Surrey continued to press as time wound down, coming closest when Danton Heinen struck the left post with a wrist-shot with about six minutes to play. Head coach Peter Schaefer then pulled Didur with more than three minutes remaining, but the move proved costly when Langley defenseman Tanner Johnson found the empty net with 2:12 left.

Didur stopped 36 Rivermen shots and was terrific in goal for Surrey, making a number of quick-reacting pad saves off chances from all areas of the Eagles' defensive zone.

Surrey went 0/4 on the power-play, while Langley failed to capitalize on three man-advantage opportunities.

My Three Stars:
1. Brock Crossthwaite, Langley
2. Kale Bennett, Surrey
3. Austin Azurdia, Langley

Up Next: The Eagles face a must-win Game Six at home Tuesday. Game time is 7:00 at South Surrey Arena.

Monday, March 10, 2014

GAMEDAY: Eagles @ Rivermen

Mainland Division Semi-Final, Game 5

Who: Surrey Eagles @ Langley Rivermen
When: March 10, 7:15 pm
Where: Langley Events Centre

Pay-Per-View: FAST Hockey
Radio: Ustream

After a rest day, the Eagles return to the Langley Events Centre for a tie-breaking Game Five in what has, to this point, been an enthralling Mainland Division semi-final. Surrey took Game Four Saturday night in a 7-5 barnburner that featured a hat-trick and five-point effort from rookie blueliner Phil Johansson and a 39-save effort in goal from fellow freshman Bo Didur.

As expected, the two games on the larger South Surrey Arena ice surface featured no shortage of offense, and tonight, the dynamic could well change back to what we witnessed in the first two games of the series. The Eagles asserted themselves well in a difficult building to find points in the first two contests, and will need another committed effort tonight if they are to gain their first lead in the best-of-seven series.

After being shut down in Game 3, Danton Heinen enjoyed his most prolific playoff game Saturday, putting up four assists. Heinen, along with Anthony Conti and Chase McMurphy, are co-leaders in Surrey's playoff scoring race with six points each.

The Eagles' power-play has gotten plenty of work, and has cashed in too, clicking at an 8/27 rate through the series. Surrey can't count on getting nine power-plays again in Game Five, however.

Last Meeting: Six of Surrey's seven goals Saturday, and seven of the last eight overall have been scored by defensemen. Game Four was also the first of Surrey's three home-ice wins over Langley this season not to be decided in overtime.

Our Opponent: The Rivermen will be happy to be home at the Langley Events Centre for one last time in this series (a Game 7 would take place at George Preston Recreation Centre). Langley conceded a series-high nine power-plays Saturday, and hold the high-water mark among BCHL playoff teams in terms of times short-handed. Watch for the Rivermen's top line of Matt Ustaski, Jakob Reichert and Mitch McLain to match up against the Renouf twins and Anthony Conti again this evening, though Langley coach Bobby Henderson did mix up his forward units in the late-going of Saturday's Game Four. Ustaski leads all scorers in the series with six goals and nine points.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Eagles 7 Rivermen 5

Philippe Johansson picked the perfect night to find his offensive spark.

The rugged rearguard scored his first goals since his Eagles debut, putting up a hat-trick and a five-point night as Surrey knocked off the Langley Rivermen 7-5 Saturday, evening their best-of-seven Mainland division semi-final at two games apiece.

Surrey scored four power-play goals, and six of the Eagles' seven tallies came from defensemen in the most offensively potent of the four games in the first-round series so far.

Surrey started early, with Johansson snapping home a point shot inside four minutes before Chase McMurphy banged home a loose puck at the side of Brock Crossthwaite's net to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead before the ten-minute mark. Neither side could capitalize on four first-period power-plays as the Eagles went into the intermission ahead by two.

Surrey wasted no time in adding to their lead, with defenseman Kale Bennett hammering home a five-on-three point blast 2:30 into the second to make it 3-0, chasing Crossthwaite in the process, seconds after he'd inadvertently put his side down two men by flipping the puck over the glass in his right-wing corner.

Matt Dawson gobbled up a rebound and beat replacement netminder Lyndon Stanwood 50 seconds later, putting a loose puck past the 20 year-old goaltender after forward (and birthday boy) Joe Drapluk drove the net from the right side.

Langley opened their accounts midway through the middle frame through former Eagle Kevan Kilistoff, but Johansson quickly replied with his second goal of the game as the two sides continued to trade goals as though they were going out of style.

Langley would add two more tallies before the intermission to slim Surrey's lead to 5-3: first, Jakob Reichert tucked in his own rebound, before linemate Matt Ustaski scored his series-leading sixth goal of the playoffs 4:30 from the break.

Johansson completed his hat-trick on an early third-period power-play, accepting a pass from Bennett and beating Crossthwaite (who had replaced Stanwood again late in the second period) from the left point. Bennett would add his second of the game on a one-timer to increase Surrey's lead to 7-3 before Mitch McLain and Chris Forney rounded out the night's offense with a pair of late goals for Langley.

Bo Didur stopped 39 of 44 shots in goal for the Eagles, who went 4/9 on the power-play Saturday. Didur stopped his second penalty shot in as many games too, thwarting Tyson Witala in the second period. Drapluk and captain Danton Heinen each had four assists in the game for Surrey.

My Three Stars:
1. Philippe Johansson, Surrey
2. Joe Drapluk, Surrey
3. Darien Craighead, Langley

Up Next: Game Five goes Monday night at the Langley Events Centre, with the now-necessary Game Six set for Tuesday evening at South Surrey Arena.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

GAMEDAY: Eagles vs. Rivermen

Mainland Division Semi-Final, Game 4

Who: Surrey Eagles vs. Langley Rivermen
When: March 8, 7:00 pm
Where: South Surrey Arena

Pay-Per-View: FAST Hockey
Radio: Ustream

A truculent Game 3 makes way for a pivotal Game 4 tonight as the Eagles look to even their Mainland division semi-final against Langley on home ice. Langley took Friday's game by a 6-3 final score thanks to two more goals from sizeable centreman Matt Ustaski, and tempers reached a boiling point late in the third period after an incident in front of, and in, the Langley bench.

Tonight, watch for Surrey to bear down on their chances in front of Langley netminder Brock Crossthwaite. A frantic second-period Friday led to tremendous opportunities at both ends of the ice, but it was the Rivermen who gained the upper hand after scoring twice late in the middle frame. Surrey was outshot for the first time in the series Friday as well.

Anthony Conti continues his strong playoff, registering an assist to up his team-leading point total to five after a nifty set-up on Nathan Renouf's opener. Blueliner Matt Dawson led all Surrey scorers Friday with three points, and became the first Eagles defenseman to find the back of the net in the series.

Surrey will also look to match Langley's physicality in Game 4. 16 year-old defenseman Domenic Masellis laid out some massive checks Friday, though it was fellow 16 year-old Marcus Vela's hit on the Burnaby product that sparked the late malfaisance last night.

Last Meeting: Langley's six consecutive goals gave them the upper hand on the scoresheet, and in the series with Friday's 6-3 win. Oddly enough, the team scoring the first goal has lost each of the previous three games in this series.

Our Opponent: Langley put together their most complete performance of the series Friday, and Bobby Henderson's club will be feeling good about their ability to regain momentum after the win. The foremost performer in the series thus far has been Ustaski, who with five goals has been Langley's go-to offensive player both on the power-play, and at even strength. Langley played a more up-tempo style of game Friday than what we saw at the Langley Events Centre earlier in the week, and it paid off offensively with the team's forwards able to navigate through the neutral zone with pace. Crossthwaite was strong in goal, and despite making only four saves in the second period made the stop of the series thus far off Nathan Renouf on the doorstep.

Rivermen 6 Eagles 3

Six unanswered goals helped the Langley Rivermen re-claim a series lead as they doubled the Surrey Eagles 6-3 Friday at South Surrey Arena.

Matt Ustaski scored twice, including the eventual game-winning goal early in the third period, and tempers flared toward the end of regulation time as the heated rivalry between Surrey and Langley hit a new boiling point.

The Eagles shot out of the gate Friday, outshooting Langley 9-1 over the first thirteen minutes and scoring the opening goal just past the 4 and a half minute mark. Nathan Renouf rifled a wrist shot over Langley netminder Brock Crossthwaite's right pad for his second goal of the playoffs, moments after a lovely cross-ice feed from Anthony Conti.

Surrey poured the offense at the Langley net, but were forced to defend steadfastly in the latter stages of the opening frame. Netminder Bo Didur stopped all ten shots he faced in period one.

The Rivermen used an early second-period power-play to get back in the game, though. Veteran defenseman Zach Urban fired a shot through traffic from the left wing to even the score.

Undaunted, the Eagles fought back through the middle frame, coming closest to recapturing the lead when the Renouf twins forced a pair of turnovers deep in the Langley zone. Crossthwaite made his best save of the night robbing Nathan at the left post, moments before Eagles rearguard Kale Bennett ripped a point shot off the post.

Langley struck twice in the final 3 and a half minutes of period two in a turning point to Friday's game. First, on a power-play, Ustaski found the back of the net from the side of Didur's goal before Jakob Reichert banged home a rebound with 1:18 left in the frame to give the Rivermen a 3-1 lead heading into the intermission.

Ustaski has left his stamp on this first-round series with five goals in three games, the most recent of which came early in period three when, after racing down the left flank, laced a snapshot into the top corner of Didur's net to give Langley a 4-1 lead. Former Eagle Kevan Kilistoff added insult to injury just before the midpoint of the third period, outwaiting Didur on a clearcut chance in front of the net before Darien Craighead rounded out the visitors' offensive run from the slot at 11:08.

The Eagles scored on a pair of two-man advantages late in the game to narrow the scoreline, first through Chase McMurphy, who snapped his second goal in as many games past Crossthwaite from the left-wing circle.

The second two-man advantage came as the result of something entirely different. After Domenic Masellis was hit at centre ice, the two sides gathered in front of the Langley bench, tussling until first, Kilistoff knocked Eagles forward Sam Chatterley to the ice then, Chatterley's linemate Mitch Fyffe was engaged by a Rivermen player seated on his bench, sparking a wild fracas in the neutral zone that led to seven misconducts. After plenty of allusion to past incidents between the two sides, the late antics were the most marked of any malfaisance to occur thus far this series, though tempers cooled during the long delay following the incident.

On the ensuing power-play, Surrey defenseman Matt Dawson rounded out the evening's offense by wristing a point shot past Crossthwaite's left pad.

Didur made 30 saves Friday, including a penalty shot late in the third period off Marcus Vela. Crossthwaite earned the victory with a 28-save performance. The Rivermen now lead the series 2-1.

My Three Stars:
1. Matt Ustaski, Langley
2. Jakob Reichert, Langley
3. Zach Urban, Langley

Up Next:
Surrey will try to even the series in Saturday's Game Four at South Surrey Arena. Game time is 7:00 pm.

Friday, March 7, 2014

GAMEDAY: Eagles vs. Rivermen

Mainland Division Semi-Final, Game 3

Who: Surrey Eagles vs. Langley Rivermen
When: March 7, 7:00 pm
Where: South Surrey Arena

Pay-Per-View: FAST Hockey
Radio: Ustream

The Eagles' Mainland division semi-final shifts to the South Surrey Arena tonight, with nothing to choose between Surrey and the top-ranked Langley Rivermen. Both Games 1 and 2 were vise-tight, and with the series now relocating to the wide ice in South Surrey, the on-ice dynamic could well change, too.

The Eagles, written off by some at the outset of the series, have proven through the first two games that hard work and commitment can truly pay off, and will come into tonight's contest full of both confidence, and maybe more importantly, belief in themselves.

Surrey has spread out the scoring through their top six in the best-of-seven thus far, with rookie Anthony Conti leading the team in total points with 4.

37 of Surrey's 63 total shots in this series have come in the third period, as the Eagles have managed to capitalize three times in the final frame over the first two games.

Both teams have enjoyed incredible success on home ice this season. The time is right to see if the Eagles can hold serve in this heated rivalry.

Last Meeting: Nathan Renouf's goal 6:01 from the end of regulation time completed Wednesday's comeback, with the Eagles now enjoying home ice for three of the remaining five games of the best-of-seven series.

Our Opponent: Langley will rue a run of play in Wednesday's third period that resulted in four minor penalties. The Rivermen have conceded eleven power-plays through the first two games of the series and tonight will surely point to discipline as a key to success. Hulking centre Matt Ustaski has been a lot to handle through Games 1 and 2; the 6'6" forward leads all players in this series with 3 goals. All three, coincidentally, have been assisted by captain and linemate Mitch McLain. The Rivermen came out Wednesday with a real physical edge, watch for that to continue tonight. Rookie forward Darien Craighead celebrates his 17th birthday today.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Eagles 4 Rivermen 3

Nathan Renouf's goal 6:01 from the end of the third period broke a 3-3 tie as the Surrey Eagles evened their best-of-seven Mainland division semifinal with a 4-3 win in Langley Wednesday.

A determined Eagles squad overcame 3 deficits to wrest home-ice advantage away from the top-ranked Rivermen as the series shifts to South Surrey Arena Friday night.

Langley scored the first goal of each period, opening the scoring on a nifty passing play between Mitch McLain and Matt Ustaski, with the latter firing home the first of his two goals from the right circle four minutes into the game.

Surrey earned their offensive chances in a hard-hitting opening frame, with both Jonah Renouf and Kale Bennett taking the worst of hard checks from McLain and Tyson Witala. The Eagles found their equalizer on a power-play, as captain Danton Heinen wristed home a shot from right wing after a delicious give-and-go sequence with Joe Drapluk.

Langley, though, would find a second lead early in the second period. Gage Torrel redirected James Robinson's hard pass over Surrey netminder Bo Didur on an odd-man rush. The official closest to the net initially waved the goal off, but after an extended conversation (and numerous replays on the Langley Events Centre jumbotron) the decision was, correctly, reversed to give the hosts a 2-1 lead. 

Again, Surrey clawed back through Jonah Renouf. The diminutive winger took out a massive load of frustration on a loose puck near the right point, rifling a slapshot over Langley netminder Brock Crossthwaite's right pad to level the score at 2-2 heading into the third period.

The momentum shifted back in Langley's favour in the opening minute of the final frame, and again through Ustaski, who ripped a puck through Didur from the low slot.

Only the Chilliwack Chiefs were shorthanded more times than Langley in the regular season, and discipline caught up to the Rivermen in the third period as they were assessed four straight minor penalties for hooking, boarding, cross-checking and high-sticking.

The third penalty proved the most costly, as Heinen found linemate Chase McMurphy alone at the back post for the tying goal with 7:46 left in regulation time.

Nate Renouf then completed the comeback 1:45 later, with brother Jonah finding him alone in the slot from behind the net. Renouf unleashed a wrister over Crossthwaite's left shoulder, sending the travelling Surrey fans into a frenzy.

Didur and the Eagles then shut the door, frustrating the Rivermen through the dying minutes to even the series, and setting up an even more engaging Games 3 and 4 in Surrey Friday and Saturday night.

Didur stopped 28 shots to earn his first BCHL postseason win, while the Eagles also won in Langley for the first time in six tries this season.

My Three Stars:
1. Danton Heinen, Surrey
2. Matt Ustaski, Langley
3. Chase McMurphy, Surrey

Up Next: Game 3 is set for Friday night at South Surrey Arena. Game time is 7:00 pm.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Bell network.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

GAMEDAY: Eagles @ Rivermen

 Mainland Division Semi-Final, Game 2

Who: Surrey Eagles @ Langley Rivermen
When: March 5, 7:15 pm
Where: Langley Events Centre

Pay-Per-View: FAST Hockey
Radio: Ustream

Anthony Conti will look to build on his two-goal performance from Game 1

A night after a tough defeat in the series opener, the Eagles go back to work in Langley in search of a two-game split at the Langley Events Centre. Two goals in an eleven-second span in Tuesday's second period proved to be crucial to the Rivermen's success in Game 1, as the hosts skated away with a 4-2 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Score aside, Game 1 had little to choose between the two sides. The Eagles asserted themselves offensively thanks to a two-goal effort from Anthony Conti, while Bo Didur marked his BCHL playoff debut with a steady, 23-save effort.

Tonight, the Eagles will look to replicate the hard-working effort they put forward in Game 1. Both teams employed a grinding, dump-and-chase style which led to plenty of opportunities for forwards to finish checks in the offensive zone. The continuous physicality could well have an impact on the series in the long-term, too.

The Eagles also ran into a group of persistent shot-blockers in Game 1, but found a way to get pucks to the net as time progressed, peppering Brock Crossthwaite with 17 shots in the third period. Conti's second goal was a direct result of traffic in front of the net as well, and as a sizeable forward, the former Vancouver Northwest Giant would do well to act as a screen in front of the large Langley goaltender.

Game 1 proved to be an engaging opener to this Mainland division semi-final. Game 2 should be nothing less.

Joe Drapluk put together a hard-working two-way game Tuesday

Last Meeting: Surrey's late rally fell just short, and Evan Anderson's goal at 14:30 of the second period held up as Tuesday's game-winner. Shots on goal were even at 27-27.

Our Opponent: Langley used their size to their advantage Tuesday, playing with a physical edge and finishing checks all over the ice. The top line of Matt Ustaski, Mitch McLain and Jakob Reichert contributed heavily to the Rivermen attack; both Ustaski and Reichert play the power-forward role to a tee. Langley head coach Bobby Henderson was named the BCHL Coach of the Year Tuesday, and as part of his playoff game-plan rode blueliners Zach Urban and Chris Forney heavily as well; neither rearguard seemed to leave the ice in Tuesday's third period.

Rivermen 4 Eagles 2

**Editor's note: due to a lack of internet at my new house, recaps from Games 1 + 2 will not be available on until the morning after the game. Sorry for the inconvenience.**

Two goals in an 11-second span gave Langley a lead just big enough to hold as the Rivermen took Game 1 of this Mainland division semifinal 4-2 Tuesday.

Anthony Conti scored twice for the Eagles, while Jonah Renouf had a possible goal denied in the third period on a split-second play in the Langley crease.

Surrey started well in a tentative opening frame, with Conti putting the visitors ahead on a pretty solo effort 6 minutes into the first. Surrey held the lead going into the intermission after twenty very tentative minutes from both sides.

The hosts found an equalizer early in the second on a power-play. Matt Ustaski one-timed a shot through Surrey netminder Bo Didur after a hard pass from Mitch McLain from the left-wing corner. 

The Eagles very nearly took the lead again shortly after, but Renouf struck the crossbar on a rush down the left wing. Langley countered and found the go-ahead goal just after the 14-minute mark, when Marcus Vela banged home a rebound after Gage Torrel drove the net from the left corner.

Evan Anderson looped a bouncing puck over Didur's shoulder on the ensuing rush to give Langley a 3-1 lead, but again the Eagles pressed, coming close again when Matt Dawson cranked a snapshot off Brock Crossthwaite's right post in the dying moments of the period.

The score stayed static until Renouf found his opportunity, cutting around Langley d-man Tanner Johnson and bearing in alone on Crossthwaite. It appeared Renouf may have tucked the puck just across the goal-line under Crossthwaite's right pad, but no signal was given by the referee, who was at a difficult angle to view goings-on. After conferring with his officiating crew and the goal judge, the call of "no goal" was given.

Undaunted, Surrey pressed on, cutting the Langley lead to 3-2 with less than 3 minutes left when Conti tipped home Kale Bennett's point shot from the right wing. But despite an extra attacker and a slough of offensive zone time, Surrey could not find the equalizing goal, with Langley's Jakob Reichert adding an empty-netter as the final horn sounded for a 4-2 final score.

Game 1 was gritty, intense, and featured the type of physical play that typifies a divisional rivalry. The Eagles worked hard, and with repeated efforts like Tuesday will prove to be a thorn in Langley's side as the series progresses.

My 3 Stars:
1. Matt Ustaski, Langley
2. Anthony Conti, Surrey
3. Mitch McLain, Langley

Up Next: Game 2 of the best-of-seven series goes Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre. Game time is 7:15.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Bell network.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

GAMEDAY: Eagles @ Rivermen

Mainland Division Semi-Final, Game 1

Who: Surrey Eagles @ Langley Rivermen
When: March 4, 7:15 pm
Where: Langley Events Centre

Pay-Per-View: FAST Hockey
Radio: Ustream

The second season begins tonight in Langley, as for the second consecutive season the Eagles take on the Rivermen in the Mainland division semi-finals. Surrey kick-started their Fred Page Cup run with a 4-game best-of-five victory over Langley a year ago, but with both sides featuring a slough of new faces from last March, past precedent will have little impact on the current go-round.

The Eagles finished the regular season earlier than every other team in the BCHL, having not played since the 4-3 overtime setback in Victoria on February 23rd. A full week of practice and preparation, as well as rest and relaxation, has Peter Schaefer's squad poised to tangle with the number 1 overall seed in the BCHL post-season.

Watch for Eagles captain Danton Heinen to have an extra hop in his step tonight. The Langley native committed to the University of Denver late last week, and finished the regular season tops among BCHL rookies with 62 points. Expect 16 year-old Bo Didur to carry much of the load between the pipes for Surrey, too. Didur played all three games on the recent Island swing, with a showcase, 31-save performance coming February 22nd in Nanaimo.

To have success in the series, the Eagles will need to find success at the Langley Events Centre. Surrey was outscored 17-5 in four games in Langley this season, but have not played away to the Rivermen since the new-look roster was formed at the January 10th deadline.

Special teams will also play a role tonight, and throughout the series. Only the Chilliwack Chiefs were short-handed more times during the regular season than Langley, while the Eagles boasted the second-best power-play efficiency through 58 games. The man-advantage clicked at a 3.5% better rate away from home than at South Surrey Arena as well.

Surrey's mentality has certainly changed since the January 10th deadline; the team looks energetic, more confident, and willing to battle for one another through the ups and downs of a best-of-seven series. The waiting is over, the playoffs are here, and tonight, we'll discover who on this Surrey roster is ready to play big.

Last Meeting: Nathan Renouf's overtime winner helped the Eagles to a 5-4 home win January 19th. Both Surrey victories over the Rivermen this season came on home ice, and in overtime.

Our Opponent: The Rivermen clinched the league's best regular-season record with a pair of wins in Prince George this past Thursday and Friday, and come into this series looking to build on an already strong campaign. Bobby Henderson's club plays a hard-checking, physical brand of hockey; watch for that to intensify as each post-season shift becomes more and more intense. Captain Mitch McLean led the Rivermen in regular-season scoring with 60 points, and is one of three Langley skaters (Jakob Reichert and Charlie Pelnik the others) to have amassed 85 or more minutes in penalties through the regular campaign. Langley's success against Surrey has come in part because of the size of their back-end, anchored by veteran rearguard Zach Urban. Brock Crossthwaite was the goaltender of record in 6 of the 8 regular-season meetings, posting a 5-1 record.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Heinen Commits To Denver

Surrey's captain has plenty to celebrate after committing to the Denver Pioneers

The Eagles captain has secured his NCAA future. Danton Heinen announced via Twitter late Thursday that he will attend the University of Denver following his time in the BCHL. And to put it bluntly, the Pioneers are getting themselves a player. No rookie had more than Heinen's 62 points during the 2013-14 season, as the Langley product caught fire midway through the season and adopted a leadership role following the trade of former captain Brett Mulcahy to Vernon in January.

Heinen scored 29 goals in 57 games this season, 20 of which came at the South Surrey Arena. The 18 year-old also chipped in with 8 power-play goals and 4 game-winning markers, and even a penalty-shot goal against Coquitlam on November 29th.

The full release from the team follows. Congrats "Heinz" on the great news!

The Surrey Eagles are pleased to announce the commitment of our team captain and leading scorer, Danton Heinen, to the University of Denver.

Heinen, a native of Langley, was named Eagles captain midway through the 2013-14 BCHL season, and led the Eagles and all BCHL rookies with 62 points this campaign. In 59 career BCHL games with Surrey and Merritt, Heinen has amassed 29 goals and 64 points, all while compiling only 8 minutes in penalties.

Prior to joining the Eagles, Heinen was a member of the Richmond Sockeyes team that was named Western Canada Junior "B" champions in 2013.

Heinen is the seventh player on the Eagles' current roster to have secured a commitment to an NCAA Division I school, joining Jonah & Nathan Renouf (Quinnipiac), Braeden Russell & Philippe Johansson (Brown), Chase McMurphy (Alaska) and Anthony Conti (Alaska-Anchorage).

Congratulations Danton on this terrific achievement!

The Eagles begin the 2014 BCHL playoffs Tuesday, March 4th in the Mainland division semi-final against the Langley Rivermen. Games 3 and 4 will be held at South Surrey Arena Friday, March 7th and Saturday, March 8th at 7:00 pm. For ticket information, please call the Eagles office at (604) 531-GOAL (4625) or secure your seats online at