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.

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