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Surrey Eagles win three straight on Vancouver Island road trip

BCHL team now above .500 after offence comes alive in three road games
Surrey Eagles defenceman Tate Taylor battles for a puck against the Nanaimo Clippers during a mid-November game at South Surrey Arena. The two teams faced each other last weekend in Nanaimo, with the Eagles winning 4-1. (Garrett James photo)

In a conversation with the Peace Arch News earlier in the BC Hockey League season, Surrey Eagles rookie Grayden Slipec predicted that, though the team had been a bit sluggish out of the gate, they’d improve as the season progressed, and be a contender by the end of it.

“The start of the year hasn’t been exactly what we wanted, but I think by the end of the season we’ll be better, and be a good playoff team,” he said.

He might’ve been on to something.

In the month or so since, Slipec’s Eagles have won seven of 10 games, including three straight on the road this past weekend on Vancouver Island – against the Victoria Grizzlies, Cowichan Valley Capitals and Nanaimo Clippers.

The three victories vaulted the Birds’ record above .500 – they’re now perched in fifth spot in the BCHL’s nine-team Coastal Conference, with a win-loss record of 11-9.

They’ll look to continue their win streak this weekend, starting today (Dec. 10) at home against the visiting Victoria Grizzlies. The two teams will play again Sunday, also at South Surrey Arena.

Last weekend, the Eagles got the better of the Grizzlies, winning 7-2 in front of a listed crowd of more than 1,400 fans at Victoria’s Q Centre.

Surrey jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period thanks to goals from the Slipec brothers – Grayden first, followed 13 minutes later by a tally from Jacob – and then expanded the lead in the middle frame on goals from Ante Zlomislic, Jacob Bonkowski and Michael Abgrall.

Leading 5-2 after 40 minutes, the visitors tacked on two final goals – from Jake Bongo and Abgrall again – to seal the victory.

Eli Pulver got the nod in net for the Eagles, stopping 34 of 36 shots he faced.

The Eagles’ offence was in top gear a day later in Cowichan, too, leading the team to a 6-3 win. Jacob Slipec had two goals, Grayden Slipec had a goal and an assist, while Abgrall, Zack Feaver and rookie centre Joel Plante also scored.

Max Prazma made 26 saves in a winning effort between the pipes.

Less than 24 hours later, the Birds found themselves in Nanaimo, where they capped the trip with a 4-1 win. Bongo had a pair of goals to pace the attack, with Feaver and Cole Galata scoring as well.

Earning a win despite playing their third game in as many nights showed the team’s resiliency, head coach Cam Keith said.

“We’re proud of the character we have in our room. It really displayed itself in the third period when we had to protect the lead, and everyone bought into playing a team style of game which wasn’t necessarily looking to score goals but really focused on protecting the lead,” he said.

The offence, meanwhile was strong enough that they forced a mid-game goaltending change by their opponents in all three games.

“We’re hoping this is a turning point and that these kids can believe this is a group that can win a championship,” Keith said. “A weekend like this can push us back into playing the right style of hockey.”

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