Jeff Stewart scores one of his two goals Sunday against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. (Garrett James photo)

Campese hat-trick leads Surrey Eagles to win over Alberni

Eagles’ victory comes two days after a 4-1 loss to Langley Rivermen

Happy birthday, Matthew Campese.

The Surrey Eagles forward celebrated his 20th birthday Sunday afternoon, and gave himself – and his team – the best possible present: a hat-trick en route to a 7-3 Eagles’ victory over the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

And the veteran forward – who was acquired from the West Kelowna Warriors in mid-November to help boost the Birds’ offensive attack – wasn’t the only Eagle to put on highlight-reel performance in front of the home crowd Sunday. Colgate University-bound Jeff Stewart had a four-point game, with two goals and a pair of assists, while John Wesley had a two-goal, one-assist effort and Ryan Brushett had three assists.

Wesley – who leads the BC Hockey League in scoring – now has enough goals to match his uniform number: 27.

Ty Westgard also had two assists in the win to take over sole possession of the BCHL’s scoring lead, with 46 points in 34 games. Wesley, Wenatchee Wild forward Jasper Weatherby and Vernon Vipers’ Jimmy Lambert are in second place, all with 43 points.

Nic Tallarico stopped 40 shots in net to earn the win – his 10th of the season, and eighth with the Eagles.

Though they ended up outscoring the Bulldogs by four goals, it was the visitors who took an early lead at South Surrey Arena. Midway through the first frame, Alberni Valley broke the scoreless tie with a goal from Isaac Tonkin-Palmer, and though Campese tied it up seven minutes later, it was 2-1 Bulldogs at the first intermission after Paul Selleck scored on Tallarico with seven seconds left.

Campese, with his second goal of the game, was the only player to light the lamp in the second period, and the home squad turned up the pressure in the decisive third, scoring five times to Alberni’s one.

For the Eagles, the win was the second over the Bulldogs in seven days; the weekend prior, they won 6-2 in Port Alberni.

The game did feature a scary moment, however, when Bulldogs’ forward Liam Lytton was injured after being hit into the boards right at the end of the first period. He stayed down on the ice for some time, before being taken off the ice on a stretcher by paramedics. Just after 9 p.m. Sunday, the Bulldogs announced via Twitter that Lytton was “stable and well.”

The Eagles’ victory left them with an even record for the weekend, after the Semiahmoo Peninsula squad lost to the division-rival Langley Rivermen 4-1 Friday night at Langley’s George Preston Recreation Centre. Heading into that game, Surrey trailed the first-place Rivermen by just four points – the week earlier, Surrey had gained four points in the race for first place, after Langley went winless on a three-game Island swing.

After that winless road trip, Langley head coach Bobby Henderson told Black Press it was “lessons learned” for his team, and on Friday that appeared to be the case, as the home team led 1-0 after the opening 20 minutes – on a goal from Sean Gulka – and then scored three more unanswered goals in the middle period to take a commanding 4-0 lead into the third.

In the final period, Perry Winfree – with his second goal of the season – scored a power-play marker, with Westgard and Wesley picking up assists, but it was as close as the Eagles would get, as the Rivermen skated away with the three-goal lead and two points in the Mainland Division standings.

Langley still sits atop the division with 42 points, followed by the Prince George Spruce Kings, who are just one point back. The Eagles, with a record of 17-13-3-1 (win-loss-overtime loss-tie) are third, with 38 points. With one more victory, Surrey will match its win total from all of last season.

This weekend, Surrey will play its final two games before a 13-day break for the holidays. On Friday, they’ll host the Powell River Kings at South Surrey Arena, and on Saturday will return to Langley for a rematch with the Rivermen. After that, Surrey won’t play again until Dec. 29, when they travel to Chilliwack to battle the Chiefs.

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