For the fourth time in franchise history – and first time since 2005 – the Surrey Eagles are kings of the B.C. Hockey League.
The Eagles won the Fred Page Cup Sunday night before 3,100 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre, when Adam Tambellini’s one-timer in double-overtime beat Vees’ goalie Chad Katunar.
The goal gave Surrey a 3-2 victory, and a 4-2 series win, dethroning the defending champion Vees.
“It feels great,” said Surrey head coach Matt Erhart, who won a Fred Page Cup as a player with the Eagles in 1998.
“To get it as a coach is almost more satisfying. It’s a little more work when you’re a coach – when you’re a player, you just show up and play, but we have a great bunch of guys who want to work hard… it makes it easy as a coach.”
Surrey’s ascension to the top was not without a few missteps Sunday – namely, two blown leads in the final 10 minutes. With the Eagles protecting a 1-0 lead, Penticton got on the board at the 12-minute mark when John Seimer fed Louie Nanne in the high slot where he beat Eagles’ goaltender Michael Santaguida with a wrister.
The deadlock didn’t last long, however. Three minutes later, Eagles’ forward Brady Shaw – a former Vee – restored the visiting team’s lead on the power play when he chipped the puck past Katunar.
Surrey had a chance to add an insurance goal late in the period when Penticton’s Bryan Sinz was whistled for a hit-to-the-head penalty with 2:29 to go, but Shaw took a tripping penalty one minute later.
And though the Eagles’ penalty killing had been strong all series, they weren’t able to kill off Shaw’s infraction. With 23 seconds left in the game, Surrey blew its second lead when Penticton’s Michael Rebry tipped a point shot past Santaguida to send the game to overtime.
Tambellini, who Surrey grabbed at the trade deadline from the Vernon Vipers, put the series to bed 2:34 into the second overtime period when he one-timed a pass from Demico Hannoun past Katunar.
Said Shaw, of Tambellini: “He’s got a pretty nice shot and didn’t make a mistake. Everything else is kind of a blur.”
The championship held extra meaning for Shaw, who was released by the Vees two games into the 2011/12 season, before hooking up with the Coquitlam Express.
“Getting released by them, I thought it was the worst thing in the world when it happened,” Shaw explained. “But I moved on and found a new home here in Surrey. I’m happy to be here and happy to be a champion.”
Surrey’s other goal came early, off the stick of captain Brett Mulcahy 1:55 into the game when he knocked in a rebound from a Michael Stenerson shot.
An emotional Vees’ head coach-GM Fred Harbinson said his players laid it all on the line.
“They have nothing to hold their heads down about. They battled right to the end. It was a heck of a series, two great teams. The last two games we had multiple chances to get it done.”
The Eagles’ win returns the Fred Page Cup to the BCHL’s Coastal Conference for the first time since 2007, when the Nanaimo Clippers won. In the five years between, only two teams – Penticton and the Vernon Vipers – had won the trophy.
Surrey now advances to the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup, which begins Saturday in Nanaimo.
The western tournament will see the Eagles, Alberta champion Brooks Bandits, Saskatchewan’s Yorkton Terriers, Manitoba champion Steinbach Pistons and the host Clippers vie for two berths in the Royal Bank Cup national championship, set for Summerside, PEI.