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Tambellini gets double-OT winner for Surrey
Black Press Sports
For the fourth time in franchise history – and first time since 2005 – the Surrey Eagles are kings of the BC 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, who up until that point of extra time had been nearly unbeatable.
The goal gave Surrey a 3-2 victory, and a 4-2 series win, dethroning the Vees, who were the defending league champions.
“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.”
But Surrey’s ascension to the top of the mountain was not without a few missteps Sunday – namely, two blown leads in the last 10 minutes of the third period.
But the Birds are nothing if not resilient – a quality Erhart has trumpeted throughout the post-season.
In the third period, with the Eagles protecting a 1-0 lead, Penticton finally got on the board at the 12-minute mark when John Seimer, streaking down the left wing, took the puck below the Surrey goal line and threw it into the high slot, where Louie Nanne found it and wired a wrist shot past Eagles’ goaltender Michael Santaguida.
The deadlock didn’t last long, however. Just over three minutes after Nanne’s tying goal, 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 the power play was short-lived; 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 of 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.
“When we took that penalty, I kind of had a bad feeling, knowing the way the Vees are… knowing the amount of firepower they have,” said Erhart.
“But the first 10 minutes of overtime I thought we dominated, and the last 10 we somehow found a way to hold on, and get the goal in double 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.
“I don’t really know what happened,” said Shaw. “Me, Tambellini and Hannoun were down low, cycling the puck, and then I think Hannoun threw it out in front. One of the Vees’ players missed it and it went right to 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 in the game came early, off the stick of captain Brett Mulcahy. Mulcahy notched his second of the playoffs 1:55 into the game when he knocked in a rebound from a Michael Stenerson shot. The Eagles had a chance to make it a two-goal lead when Nic Pierog – whose nine playoff goals matched his regular-season output – rang a shot off the post, and Kevan Killistoff, the overtime hero Thursday in Game 5, knocked the rebound off the iron, as well.
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,” he said. “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 Junior Hockey League champion Brooks Bandits, Saskatchewan’s Yorkton Terriers, Manitoba champion Steinbach Pistons and the host Nanaimo Clippers vie for two berths in the Royal Bank Cup national championship, set for Summerside, PEI.