Heading into a pair of games vs. the Eagles this week for the Express their fate was simple, if they lost both games in regulation they were eliminated from the playoffs. The Eagles would have a 18 point lead on the Express with Burnaby having 9 games left in the schedule. The tie-breakers were in Surrey's favour.
Wednesday, Surrey came into Bill Copeland Sports Centre looking to make funeral arrangements on the Express season.
They got off to a good start by opening up a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play on goals by Grant Toulmin and Andrew Wallace on a powerplay.
Burnaby couldn't afford to get rattled with Surrey getting off to a fast start. There was still plenty of hockey left to play. They just had to chip away and try and get back in it.
That's exactly what they did. John Digness contined his strong play by pulling the Express back within one by scoring a 2nd period goal. Surrey took their lead into the third, but less than 6 minutes into the third period, the game was tied on a goal by Jacob Verheyden.
Surrey re-stored their lead with 8 minutes remaining when the Eagles scored their 2nd powerplay goal of the game when Chris Santiago found the back of the net.
The Express couldn't pull even and the Eagles iced the game when Brennan Strang hit the empty net.
The game ended on a sour note when Luke Challier was called for instigating when he took a shot at Eagles forward Andrew Christ. Challier was given an instigator penalty which resulted in an automatic one game suspension for Challier since the instigator penalty came in the final 5 minutes of the third period.
Final score Eagles 4 Express 2.
Surrey 22 *Season low for shots allowed in a game for the Express this season.
3-Grant Toulmin (1G,2A)
2-John Digness (1G)
1-Tommy Tartaglione (31 saves,W)
Surrey's win put the Express on the brink of elimination. They opened up a 16 point lead on Burnaby with just 10 games left in the Express schedule. The win was Surrey's 7th straight over the Express in the season series.
The teams came together again Friday night for the re-match with Surrey looking to put an end to the Express slim playoff aspirations.
Former Express Spencer Bennett looked to put a dagger in the heart of his former team early. He was hooked on a breakaway hindering his shot attempt and was awarded a penalty shot.
On the penalty shot, Bennett looked to beat Chan to the stick side, but the Express netminder turned him aside to keep the game scoreless.
Bennett's penalty shot was 4th for the opposition vs. the Express this season. Mike Chan has been between the pipes for all 4 and stopping 3 of them. The only player to beat him on a penalty shot is Andrew Wallace when he scored in overtime on December 31st to give the Eagles a 4-3 win.
Bennett had a chance at redemption moments later when he was sent in on another breakaway. Again, he was turned aside when Chan came up large with a glove save to keep the game scoreless.
Those saves proved to be huge as moments later Burnaby opened the scoring when Garrick Perry banked the puck in off Tommy Tartaglione to open the scoring for the Express.
The lead didn't last as the Eagles pulled even on a powerplay. Anthony Bardaro scored on a sharp angle beating Mike Chan on the glove side.
One of big reasons why the Eagles had won the last 7 matchups between the two teams has been their powerplay. The goal by Bardaro was Surrey's 18th powerplay goal in their last 53 opportunities vs. the Express.
Now for as dreadful as the Express penalty killing has been vs. Surrey in the last 7 meetings, their powerplay had been just as dismal. Heading into Friday's matchup, the Express powerplay was just 2 for 43 in the last 7 games.
In the 2nd, Burnaby worked on improving their powerplay numbers vs. the Eagles when Nathan Westover blasted home a one timer on the pass from Reid Edmondson to restore the Express lead.
Hear Westover's blast here.
That rare powerplay goal by Burnaby vs. Surrey was followed moments later followed by another one with Dylan Herold scoring off a centering pass from Jacob Verheyden opening up a 3-1 lead.
Hear Herold's goal here.
Burnaby pushed their lead to 3 before the 2nd period was done when captain Tim Holloway walked out from behind the net and centred the puck, Herold and Verheyden were both in front and it was Verheyden scoring putting home the pass to give the Express a 4-1 lead.
Hear Verheyden's goal here.
Surrey pulled back within 2 midway through the third when Adam Hartley found Grant Toulmin wide open in front of Mike Chan, Toulmin had all day and made no mistake beating Chan with a deke to the stick side.
That would be it for the Eagles on this night. Verheyden rounded out the scoring by hitting the empty net on a breakaway for his 2nd goal and 3rd point of the game.
Express 5 Eagles 2.
3-Jacob Verheyden (2G,1A)
2-Dylon Herold (1G,1A)
1-Tim Holloway (1A)
It's fitting Burnaby's 2nd line of Holloway, Herold and Verheyden swept the 3 stars on this night. They combined for 3G, 3A, 6PTS.
Burnaby's top line of Digness, Edmondson and Perry contributed to Burnaby's balanced attack on this night, the top line finished with 1G, 3A, 4PTS.
The efforts of Burnaby's 3rd line of Matt Frydrysek, Danny Merth and Trevor Milner can't be ignored. They didn't hit the scoresheet, but provided energy shift after shift after shift. Most of their time on the ice was spent in Surrey's end of the rink. Just grinding the game out and working the Eagles defence in their zone. Any coach will tell you as long as the puck isn't in their end of the rink, something is going right.
The win staved off elimination from playoff contention for the Express. However, the Express are still on life support and on the verge of being read their last rights. Surrey's 3-0 win over Alberni Valley Saturday afternoon restored Surrey's 16 point lead on the Express. They're in Westside on Tuesday night, a Eagle win will clinch them a playoff spot.