The Surrey Eagles' season to date has unfolded like a developing storm in the middle of the ocean.
At the start of the year, nobody took much notice of the Eagles as they spent the first month of the season yo-yoing along, alternating wins and losses until they had amassed a thoroughly unimpressive record of five wins, five losses and an overtime tie through 11 games.
But in the month of October, that ripple in the ocean began to turn into something more fearsome. Canny trades by management brought in sniper Brady Shaw from Coquitlam and stellar rookie goalie Michael Santaguida from the U.S.
Hockey League and young players began to develop. The Eagles slowly moved up the standings as they piled up wins. After the Christmas break the Eagles' status moved from tropical depression into a tropical storm when they rattled off six straight wins over highly touted opponents. At the B.C. Hockey League's trade deadline on Jan.
10 the Eagles acquired another sniper, Adam Tambellini, from Vernon and the storm began to reach hurricane strength. Surrey collected points in eight of nine games in February before clinching the BCHL's overall regular season title with a 3-2 overtime loss in their final game of the season Saturday against the visiting Coquitlam Express.
Now with the playoffs set to begin Friday, the Eagles' storm is about to make landfall with the capability to inflict some serious damage.
"We've obviously made a lot of changes since the start of the year, but no, I didn't expect it would work out this well," said Eagles coach Matt Erhart.
"After the first 11 games we were 5-5-1 and since then, we've been something like 37-7. We had a great run in the second half of the season and now we have to regroup and get ready for the playoffs."
All-star defenceman Craig Wyszomirksi added, "Winning the league title is a huge accomplishment because this team hasn't done that since 1997 and we couldn't be happier. It took every minute right down to the last hour and I can't stress enough how proud I am of my teammates.
"We'll enjoy it for one night before we get ready and focused for playoffs."
The Eagles' final weekend of the regular season offered both a hint of what may lie ahead coupled with a warning of what can go wrong. The Eagles were in full flight on Friday night when they hammered the Express 8-1 in Coquitlam. Surrey led 5-0 after two periods, scored on three of six power-play chances and held Coquitlam to just 21 shots on goal in a late season romp.
Trevor Cameron scored once and set up two others to lead the Surrey points parade. Shaw, Wyszomirksi, Michael Stenerson, Kevan Kilistoff, Colton Mackie, Stefan Burzan and Drew Best also scored for Surrey.
Needing just a single point to clinch the regular season title, the Eagles went out and laid an egg with a 3-2 OT loss in the rematch the following night at South Surrey Arena. Sloppy play, costly turnovers and ill-advised penalties combined to bring the Eagles back down to earth in their final warm-up before the playoffs.
"This definitely wasn't our best effort," Erhart said. "The downside of blowing a team out the night before is it's hard to do it two nights in a row. "
Kilistoff and Stenerson provided the Surrey goals.
The BCHL released their all-star list Monday, which featured five honours directed at Surrey players. Shaw, Wyszomirksi and defender Devon Toews were all named to the Coastal Conference first all-star team while Tambellini and Santaguida were second team selections.
The Eagles open the playoffs at home against Langley Friday at 7 p.m.
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