Playoff thrills Cap Beagle's climb

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

A lot can happen in four years.

For Jay Beagle, there have been some huge progression.

There's his upcoming July wedding after four years with his high school sweetheart Ashley.

There's also his steady climb from the AJHL's Calgary Royals to the NHL playoffs with the Washington Capitals.

Sharing the ice with Alex Ovechkin and fellow Calgarian Mike Green in four games in the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins still hasn't quite sunk in for the 23-year-old Beagle, a player who also won the Midget AAA Air Canada Cup in 2003 with the Calgary Northstars.

"It almost doesn't seem real. Looking back on it even just now, it was a pretty unbelievable experience," said the 6-foot-3, 207-pounder whose playoff run continues with the AHL Hershey Bears despite the Caps losing to the Penguins in seven games.

Beagle got into the last four of them.

"It's really a feeling you can't describe. It's a dream come true," he said.

"You're so excited, but you're nervous at the same time. There's a lot of emotion going through you."

There's plenty left, and he'll need it for the Eastern Conference final against the Providence Bruins in the Bears' quest for a Calder Cup.

The Stanley Cup is out of reach for now, but the Calder would be a nice addition to Beagle's resume.

Joining the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads late in the season after his second year at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, he earned a Kelly Cup in 2007.

"I kind of got lucky there going there. That was a real skilled team," said Beagle.

"It gave me a good look at what the next level was going to be like."

Thanks to his performance in those 2007 playoffs, during which the gritty checker chipped in a goal and three points along with 22 penalty minutes in 18 games, Beagle got a chance to experience the next level the very next season.

Discovered by Capitals scout Steve Richmond, Beagle got an invitation to a summer camp, and impressed them enough to earn an AHL contract in 2007-08. Posting solid numbers that year -- 19 goals, 37 points in 64 games -- led to a two-way contract last summer. A concussion kept him on the sidelines for a couple of months this season, and he was afraid the injury might have cost him a chance to see what he could contribute with the Caps.

"There were a lot of injuries in Washington -- a lot of guys getting called up," said Beagle. "I thought I missed my opportunity to get a call-up. Luckily, they gave me a chance."

It came in February. He dressed for three games with the Capitals in the regular-season. None of them compared to the playoffs.

"The first game, when we came out after warmup before the start of the first period. It was right after them introducing their starting players (in Pittsburgh). Just skating around that ice for the first time -- the start of your first playoff game -- the intensity in the building stands out to me," said Beagle.

"I had chills running down my spine. I had goosebumps skating out there."


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