Offence reigns for Eagles

After a home-and-home series on two consecutive nights last weekend, the Merritt Centennials have likely seen enough of the Surrey Eagles.

The Eagles pasted the Cents in both contests, beginning with a 7-2 win on home ice Friday, and followed that with a lopsided 9-2 win Saturday in Canada’s country music capital.

There was no sad ballad nor sorrowful refrain to be heard from Eagles’ camp, however. Coupled with last Wednesday’s 8-3 walloping of the Langley Chiefs, the Birds’ offence has found another gear not yet seen by Eagles’ fans this season. They’ve outscored opponents 32-10 in the last four games, dating back to an 8-3 win over Powell River on Nov. 30.

“We’re just playing a simpler game, and we’re getting more chances because of it. We’re shooting the puck a little more, too” Eagles head coach Shane Kuss said.

“We’ve always known that we’ve got the talent, and that we’re capable of scoring a lot of goals, it’s just been a matter of working hard for it.”

The Eagles’ record now stands at 20-13-0-2, leaving them in second place in the BC Hockey League’s Coastal Conference. They’re four points clear of the third-place Burnaby Express, and gaining ground on the first-place Nanaimo Clippers, who have only lost six games all season.

As has been the case for much of the past six weeks, the Eagles got scoring from plenty of sources on the weekend – five players had multi-point games on Friday, and eight more Saturday – but the team’s big line of Scott Knowles, Adam Basford and Cameron Sinclair also came alive again.

Early in the season, the threesome was largely responsible for carrying Surrey’s offensive load, but with the influx of secondary scoring, they weren’t relied upon so heavily – although they still continued to contribute. Knowles, for example, has been in the top two in BCHL scoring all season long. He’s currently second, with 57 points in 35 games – just three points back of Burnaby’s Carlo Finucci.

He had three points Friday in Surrey, and topped that Saturday in Merritt with a goal and three helpers. The trio combined for 15 points in the two-game set.

“It makes it tough for other teams, I’m sure, when they’ve got to play against us when we’ve got three lines that can score. And we’ve even been scoring on the penalty kill lately, too,” said Eagles captain Phil Magistrale, who had two goals Friday night.

“It’s unbelievable right now – more than you can ask for.”

Another Eagle on fire of late is Ryan Pajimola, who had two first-period goals Friday. The 19-year-old Spokane native is third on the team in goals with 14 – already a career high.

“Pajimola has been scoring a lot lately, and shooting a lot more – and he’s got a heavy shot. And we’re getting guys like (Matt) Redkwich chipping in too, which is great to see,” Kuss said.

The Eagles are home tonight for a return engagement with the Chiefs, who have now won two straight following a four-game losing skid.

“We’ve got three games left before the (holiday) break and we expect to win all three,” Magistrale said.

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