The Surrey Eagles have been playing like their tail feathers are ablaze since returning from the B.C. Hockey League's annual Christmas break.
Despite a schedule filled with teams from the league's top echelon, the Eagles have collected nine of a possible 10 points and have climbed into a share of first place in the BCHL's Mainland Division.
The Eagles returned to action Dec. 28 and promptly swept a home-and-home set with the Chilliwack Chiefs, winning 5-3 at South Surrey Arena and then blanking their rivals 3-0 the following night in the 'Wack. Surrey completed the 'welcome back' weekend by posting another black sheet in a 2-0 win in Coquitlam.
Surrey carried that energy onto the road last weekend where they posted a 6-3 win over the Smoke Eaters in Trail Friday and then dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime to the Interior's top team, the Penticton Vees.
Eagles coach Matt Erhart wasn't sure what to expect after the team played well but only managed to secure a single point in Surrey's final two games before the holiday break. The back-to-back wins over Chilliwack erased those memories and the Eagles haven't looked back since.
"Going into the break we were seven points behind Chilliwack, but we looked at those two games as a key point in the season," Erhart said. "If we win both, we cut the gap to three points and we're back in it but if they sweep us, we're 11 points back and probably done for the year. A split would mean we're right back in the same spot. We got the two wins we needed and that was a big confidence boost for us and then we won in Coquitlam to pull to within a single point.
"The boys came back hungry from the break and those two wins over Chilliwack kind of spring boarded the mindset of the team and now the guys are all thinking, 'Let's keep moving up; let's get every point we can get.' It may turn out to be a turning point for us."
That confident mojo was on display in rinks in Trail and Penticton as both nights, the Eagles rallied from early two-goal deficits and took over the play in the late stages of games. Playing on the road with the games on the line, Surrey outscored Trail and Penticton 6-2 in the third period.
First up was the Smoke Eaters who managed to build a 2-0 second period lead only to watch as the Eagles tied the game before the second intermission and then pulled away with a pair of Brady Shaw goals in the first three minutes of the final frame.
Brett Mulcahy led the way with a goal and two helpers while solo markers came from Drew Best, Nicolas Pierog and Mason Blacklock. Surrey goalie Michael Santaguida stopped 29 Trail shots to earn the win.
The biggest test of the weekend came Saturday in Penticton where the Eagles once again dug themselves out of a jam in time to steal a point in the standings. Surrey trailed the Vees 2-0 midway through the third period before Shaw stepped up with a pair of goals - his second with 13 seconds remaining - to force overtime. Penticton's Troy Stecher ended the Eagles' Cinderella weekend by scoring the winner on a breakway in the second overtime period.
"They're the defending champs and they have the best record in the league so we knew it wouldn't be easy," Erhart said. "They were only up 1-0 after two periods and then they made it 2-0 before we pushed back with two goals in the final six minutes to take it into overtime. We got a point out of it and then it went to three-on-three double overtime where they finally won it on a breakaway. We've seen games like that go our way earlier this year so we're happy to come away with three out of four points on the road trip."
The Eagles are back in action Wednesday when they host Coquitlam beginning at 7 p.m.