Another BCHL season has passed with the Surrey Eagles missing the playoffs for a second straight year. The Eagles were able to double their win record this year, however, with 18 compared to their nine last season.
And the Eagles are going to have to settle on that number. A tie breaking goal in the last minute of a crucial game at home against Chilliwack on February 16th all but ended any hopes of a playoff run for the Surrey Eagles. And sure enough, any chance of a postseason birth was thwarted a few nights later when the Salmon Arm Silverbacks shut out of Alberni Valley the next night and clinched the postseason, leaving the Eagles' on the outside looking in for another season.
Speaking with co-captain Paul McAvoy following the game, you'd never know the Surrey squad was suffering the loss of defeat in their dressing room.
"It was a great effort and a tough one to lose but we're going to keep working and keep our heads up high," McAvoy said the night before the Eagles were officially eliminated from the postseason.
The revised 2017 Fred Page Cup playoff format has 14 teams making the postseason including a possible crossover scenario new to the format. Surrey held the fifth spot in the Mainland Division and needed to finish with more points than the sixth place team in the Interior Division, which the Salmon Arm Silverbacks held. With the win over Alberni Valley, the Silverbacks officially eliminated Surrey.
McAvoy, 20, has been highly regarded as a leader on and off the ice for Surrey. McAvoy scored 18 goals and earned 48 points this season, surpassing his totals from his rookie 2015-16 season, where he scored 14 goals and 32 points on his way to being named Team MVP. It is evident that McAvoy is dedicated to putting in the time to learn how to play both ends of the ice and being an older player, he is a role model for the younger kids on the team.
"He brings the work ethic that you want as a coach for your players. Any time you get a forward that is good at both ends of the ice, that's crucial for your team, and detrimental to the opposing team," Surrey Assistant Coach Riley Sweeney said of McAvoy. "He's a good 20-year-old presence for our guys this year".
Sweeney is a Delta B.C. native and Surrey Eagle alum who went on to play four seasons with the Michigan Tech Huskies.
The 6-foot-2, 185 pound McAvoy was born in Lexington, Kentucky, not a traditional hockey market. His father was born in Detroit and he and grew up idolizing Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings but followed the New York Rangers. He would often drive North to Cincinnati and Cleveland to play at a high level for the Cleveland Barons and the Queen City Steam which is now the Cincinnati Thunder of the NA3HL.
"I've been all over the United States playing hockey but never to Canada or the West Coast (before signing with Surrey) and the hockey culture is unbelievable compared to Kentucky," McAvoy said. "It's also awesome to see mountains and besides the rain, it's real nice out here."
The scouting report on McAvoy is that he plays a good 200-foot game and is a gritty player who is not afraid to dig and battle hard in the corners. He also is a key contributor on the power play and penalty kill and sacrifices his body, blocking shots and has a good net front presence on the power play. He is unselfish and looks to pass rather than shoot on odd-man rushes. He has a very high hockey IQ and anticipates and reacts quickly. He also shows tremendous work ethic and never gives up on a play.
The path to Surrey was unexpected but a rewarding experience for McAvoy after he won the Eastern Hockey League championship with the Connecticut Oilers in 2014-15. It wasn't until he was approached by Surrey Head Coach Blaine Neufeld in Boston after participating in the pre-draft showcase tournament that he even imagined playing out West in the BCHL.
"We opened up a line of communication and we agreed it was the best fit for me and I could step in right away and help the guys out," McAvoy said.
He not only stepped in right away, but was awarded the co-captaincy and capped off his season by being named team MVP.
McAvoy prides himself on work ethic on and off the ice and putting in the extra time on the ice before and after practice. A work ethic that got him an NCAA Division 1 scholarship to play for the Colgate Raiders in the fall.
"Colgate is very lucky to be receiving Paul for next season, I have a ton of respect for Paul and I like the way he plays the game," said Sweeney, "He's not the most vocal guy but leads by example on the ice and our players see and understand that and have come to respect him."
Add New York to the list of states in which McAvoy has played. With the Colgate Campus in Hamilton, NY, he has the potential to play in front of many of his fellow New York Rangers fans.
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