Get the brooms out, the Surrey Eagles are sweeping up the competition.
An overtime goal by Michael Stenerson Monday night at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre propelled the suddenly soaring Surrey Eagles into the BC Hockey League’s Coastal Conference finals after a 3-2 series-ending overtime win over the Chilliwack Chiefs.
The Eagles swept the best-of-five series in three straight games, and have lost just once in seven post-season contests. They now await the winner of the Coastal Conference’s other semifinal between the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and Victoria Grizzlies.
Stenerson propelled the Eagles into the next round when he took a pass from Demico Hannoun – who had retrieved a loose puck in the corner – and fired it into the top corner of the net, over the shoulder of Chilliwack netminder Mitch Gillam.
“I made a chip pass to (Brady) Shaw, and then I kind of just stood there because he made a couple nice moves and almost put it in. Then Chico (Hannoun) wound up with it, and I got lucky coming in late… I just shot it high and it went in,” Stenerson explained to Eagles play-by-play broadcaster Brendan Batchelor after the game.
“It’s probably the biggest goal I’ve ever scored in my career.”
The goal was the second scoring chance of the extra period for Stenerson, a Semiahmoo Minor Hockey Association alum who will skate next season at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Just moments before he scored the winner, he had a breakaway but fired the puck high over the net.
“We had a couple chances there in overtime… Shawsy had a couple chances and then Steny (had a chance) when their d-man blew a wheel there and he had an opportunity,” said head coach Matt Erhart.
“All of a sudden, the puck came back. I haven’t seen Michael score a goal by raising the puck all year, and he ripped that one in there.”
As they have in all but one playoff game – a shutout loss to Langley in the first round – the Eagles again got on the board first Monday against the Chiefs, taking a 1-0 lead when Adam Tambellini when his wrist shot beat Gillam near the end of the first period.
The lead lasted barely two minutes, however, as Chilliwack sniper Austin Plevy tied the score when he knocked a pass from Luke Esposito out of mid-air and past Eagles goalie Michael Santaguida, who stopped 45 of 47 shots he faced.
The teams traded goals in the second period, with Chilliwack’s Spencer Graboski scoring a controversial marker at the 12:48 mark –the referee did not signal a goal right away, as the puck caromed off Graboski’s skate, but after a powwow between officials was deemed a good goal.
Brett Mulcahy replied for Surrey, with Stenerson picking up an assist. Neither team scored in a tight-checking third period, though Drew Best and Kevan Killistoff each had chances for the visiting team.
The only bad news for Surrey came in the third period, when Tambellini left the game after falling awkwardly into the boards. Erhart, however, expected him to be ready for the conference finals, which begin Friday.
“It’ll be nice to have these couple days off to get our team back up healthy and 100 per cent,” he said.
The Coastal Conference final – a best-of-seven series – begins Friday at South Surrey Arena.
And though happy that the three-game sweep gives his players time to rest – and the coaches time to plan for the next round – Erhart admitted the series was closer than the 3-0 score would suggest.
“In Game 1, I thought we were the better team, but Game 2 easily could’ve went either way, a coin flip. And tonight, same thing… they had lots of pressure on us, had close to 50 shots,” the coach said. “We did a pretty good job, and got some lucky bounces – shots hit some sticks and some skates… sometimes you need lucky bounces on the road in the playoffs (in order) to get those big wins.”