PORT McNEILL—The North Island Eagles atom development team may have gotten off to a slow start in its exhibition game with the Comox Chiefs Sunday, but there was nothing wrong with its finish.
Tyler Roper scored five goals, including a natural hat trick in the pivotal third period, and Ethan Bono added nine points as the Eagles raced away to an 11-6 win over the visitors at Chilton Regional Arena.
The 17 goals amassed by the two teams is remarkable considering they skated to a scoreless tie through the first period.
“At first they were playing selfish and not passing the puck enough,” Eagles coach Ray Bono said. “Once they started moving the puck they played a lot better.”
Still, after back-to-back goals by Roper and Bono in the opening minute of the second period staked the hosts to a 2-0 lead, the Chiefs showed they had come to play, too. Comox added two goals of its own in a two-minute stretch to tie it midway through the period, and continued to match scores with the Eagles before taking its first lead at 5-4 early in the third.
“It’s good for us to be in a game like that, where we’re not blowing someone out or getting blown out,” Ray Bono said. “The kids showed grit. They worked hard together.”
The turnaround began at 5:10 of the third, after the Chiefs — who were whistled for only four penalties the entire game — found themselves skating 3-on-5 due to a five-minute slashing major combined with two minor penalties a minute and a half later.
The Eagles took full advantage, with Cole Klughart netting the tying goal and Bono putting the atoms ahead for good, both on the power play. David Klatt made it 7-5 for the Eagles when, battling the Chiefs’ Cash Swayze behind the Comox net, he managed to score what teammate David Hurley called, “the craziest goal ever.”
“(Swayze) went to go shoot it around (the boards),” Klatt said. “It tipped off my stick and then it hit the goalie in the back of the leg and hit the post.”
When the puck finally came to rest, it was sitting behind the goal line as the Chiefs looked on in disbelief.
Meanwhile, goalie Griffin Handley, who was victimized by several odd-man rushes in the second, was doing his best work of the game to keep Comox from chipping into the lead.
Then it was time for the Roper show, as he potted three straight goals in less than two minutes to make it a 10-5 game. All the goals were assisted by Bono, who closed out the team’s scoring by redirecting a Roper shot to complete his own hat trick at 17:32 of the third.
Comox capped the scoring with a meaningless goal with 47 seconds to play.
“That’s North Island Eagles hockey,” Ray Bono said. “You’re gonna have games like that.”
Bono finished with six assists to go with his three goals, while Roper had three assists and Klughart three more. Ethan Hunt had two helpers and Mannie Browne added an assist for the Eagles, who will host Nanaimo in a tiering-round game in Port Alice Saturday.