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‘We aren’t giving up on the year at all' says Eagles coach
The wheelin’ and dealin’ continues for the Surrey Eagles.
After trading leading goal-scorer Nic Pierog to the Penticton Vees Saturday, and sending captain Brett Mulcahy to the Vernon Vipers Monday morning, Eagles’ head coach/GM Peter Schaefer has made one final move in advance of Friday’s trade deadline.
On Tuesday evening, Eagles’ forward Luke Sandler broke the news of the deal himself, announcing via Twitter that he was headed to the Nanaimo Clippers.
“I want to thank @SurreyEagles for everything. Great organization to be a part of,” he wrote. “I am excited to be joining (Nanaimo Clippers) for the rest of the year. Let’s make a run for this!”
Schaefer confirmed the trade Wednesday morning, adding that the team receives future considerations in exchange.
Sandler, a 20-year-old Chicago native, played 14 games for Surrey this season, tallying five goals and adding one assist.
The six-foot-3, 205-pound forward also had 39 penalty minutes.
For Sandler, the Clippers will be his fourth BCHL team.
He split last season between the Trail Smoke Eaters and Cowichan Valley Capitals.
In trading three of the team’s top forwards – all three of whom will leave the BCHL after the season – it would appear on the surface that the Eagles’ were focusing on the future. Schaefer, however, disputed the notion that the team was throwing in the towel on the 2013/14 season.
“It’s not so much selling off guys, but this just makes our lineup more solidified. We had a lot of top-six forwards who weren’t playing top-six minutes, and now we have a more defined top two lines, and a bottom two,” he explained.
“It won’t be such a mishmash. But we’re still in the playoffs, we still have great players. We aren’t giving up on the year at all.”
Schaefer said the trading of Mulcahy and Pierog should also open up more playing time for the team’s young players, including Danton Heinen, who has 17 goals, and Anthony Conti, who was acquired for Pierog.
“Those guys are the future of our team,” Schaefer said.
The deals for Mulcahy and Pierog were also made in order to give those two veterans another chance at the RBC Cup. Pierog’s new team, the Vees, are in top spot in the BCHL’s Interior Division, while Mulcahy, now in Vernon, gets a chance to play in the RBC regardless, as the Vipers are set to host the tournament.
“It’s also a chance for him to go back to his hometown and play the last 20 games or so in front of his family,” Schaefer said.
“With Nic and Brett, those were the only options for them.
“They were two of our leaders, our warriors. We weren’t trading them anywhere else.”
Though the Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline isn’t until Friday, Schaefer said his team is done making moves.
“No matter what, we’re done. We’ve used all our cards, we’ve made our moves. I’m 100 per cent finished,” he said.
The Eagles head north this weekend for a two-game series against the division-rival Prince George Spruce Kings, who sit in second place in the Mainland Division, 13 points up on Surrey.
Jonah Renouf, the Eagles leading scorer, is still recovering from a scary incident Friday against the Cowichan Valley Capitals in which he suffered a blow to the head from Capitals’ Colton Kehler.
He suffered a concussion on the play, and while he’s not likely to be in the lineup this weekend, Schaefer said he hoped his high-scoring forward would not be out of the lineup too long.
“He’s come a long way already. He wanted to skate today, actually, but we held him off,” said the coach.
Kehler was assessed a five-minute major penalty on the play, but will not be suspended, according to Schaefer.
“The league took a look at it, and they decided it was incidental contact… it was just a freaky accident.”
In 38 games this season, Renouf – whose twin bother, Nathan, is also on the team – has 13 goals and 41 points.