North Island Eagles atom Tyler Roper is knocked to the ice by an unidentified Saanich opponent during Sunday's hockey game at Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill.

Atoms crush visiting Saanich

Eagles atoms romp to 10-1 win over the visiting Saanich Braves.

PORT McNEILL—Ethan Bono wrapped up Sunday’s hockey game against visiting Saanich with a hat trick.

Asked afterward what was the best goal of the game, he didn’t hesitate.

“Evan’s,” said Bono, whose drop pass provided an assist as his cousin, Evan Manke, scored his first Eagles goal in the team’s 10-1 romp over the Braves at Chilton Regional Arena.

Manke originally played for the Eagles as an affiliated player from the Port McNeill Minor Hockey program before joining the Eagles full-time more recently.

“We came down 2-on-1, and I cut in front of the (Saanich) defenseman,” said Bono. “I sent it over to Evan, and he shot it in. It felt good.”

The exhibition win capped a one-sided weekend of play, which included a 9-2 romp over the Braves Saturday in Vancouver Island Hockey League Division 3 play at Chilton Regional Arena.

After racing to a 6-0 lead in the opening period, the Eagles came out with an emphasis on passing and trying to involve some players who don’t get into the scoresheet as often.

While the score might have been far more lopsided, the Eagles mixed up their lines and their top scorers spent the final two periods trying to set up their less-experienced teammates for goals.

Saanich goalie Jack Markarewich, under the gun throughout the game, also earned kudos for his play. Even when the Eagles first-liners backed off, he still faced a steady flurry of shots throughout the game and kept the score down while allowing only two goals over the second half.

Ethan Bono finished with three goals and four assists and Tynan Klein-Beekman and Keenan Saunders scored two goals each in Sunday’s one-sided win. But the game pointed out the vagaries of Vancouver Island Hockey’s tiering system, which places teams in competitive divisions based on preseason results against an arbitrary series of opponents.

The Eagles atoms, made up of a sizeable group of first-year players, struggled in the tiering round against a group of top-rated ‘A’ teams from larger associations and were placed in Division 4 for the regular season. But they wound up matched against several weaker, ‘B’ teams that have not been up to their level in the first half of the season.

The Eagles are alone atop the division with a 6-0 record and have outscored opponents 54-15. Saanich is 0-5 and has allowed a league-high 48 goals.

As a result, the Eagles coaching staff tried to use last weekend’s series as an educational opportunity.

“We switched up our lines to try to get some of the kids who don’t score as much an chance,” atoms coach Ray Bono said. “Tyler Roper sacrificed a number of chances trying to get his teammates the puck. I’m proud of all of the kids for doing their part to help the team.”

Joey Grant and Cole Klughart also scored for the atoms, who will take time off over the holiday break before resuming league play in January.

Numerous players found the scoring column with assists, including Klughart (4), Manke (3) and Grant of Port McNeill, Koen Harwood of Port Hardy, Roper of Port Alice and Daunte McKinney of Alert Bay.

Eagles 9, Saanich 2

In Saturday’s league contest, Klughart scored a hat trick, Roper had two goals and an assist, Ethan Bono had a goal and four assists and Peyton Dugas registered three helpers to lead the Eagles’ assault.

Daunte McKinney added a goal and an assist, Klein-Beekman and Saunders scored goals and Manke added an assist.