The North Island Bantam Eagles arrived back home to the Tri-Port with some well-earned silver medals hanging around their necks after a successful Thanksgiving hockey tournament.
The Eagles travelled roughly 317 kilometers to Powell River solely to compete, and they had a very tough match up with the Comox Valley Chiefs in the first round of the tournament, which ended up taking “a huge third period to pull out the win,” said Coach Ryan Handley.
The Chiefs’ Nikai Vosburg opened up the scoring in the first period at 12:09, but Eagles’ centre Ethan Bono responded with a goal of his own at 10:45 to tie the game back up 1-1.
The Chiefs struck again in the second period, this time with a goal coming from Ryder Dumonceau at 8:51, and then Jaren Geransky knocked the puck past the Eagles’ goalie Griffin Handley with 4:44 left on the clock, giving the Chiefs a 3-1 lead.
With 2:27 left to go in the period, the Eagles’ David Klatt found the back of the net off passes from Chelsea Noel and Tyler Roper to cut the lead to 3-2 for the Chiefs going into the third period.
The Eagles came out of the dressing room determined to wrestle the game away from the Chiefs’ grasp in the final period, and it was Connor Van Will who scored at 18:05 to tie the game up 3-3, followed by Roper netting his first goal of the game with 1:55 left to effectively steal a 4-3 win from the Chiefs by the narrowest of margins.
“We didn’t have much energy to start, but our penalty kill was very good which starts from the net out,” said Handley. “Griffin kept us in the game and was very good at holding Comox off on two straight five-on-three power plays.”
The Eagles had a date with the Burnaby Bulldogs in their second game of the tournament, and Handley felt the Eagles showed “a much better effort from every player, and our physical play was also very good.”
The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard first with a goal from Nathan Clegg at 6:57, but Roper tied the game back up 1-1 with a goal of his own at 6:38.
From that point on it was all Eagles.
Joey Grant and Van Will both scored in the second period, and then the Eagles’ captain Tynan Klein-Beekman and Roper netted goals in the third to give the Eagles a 5-1 win.
“Tynan led the way physically and the others followed suit,” said Handley. “Tyler and Joey both had great games and are really working well together — Joey attracts so much attention that he can feed his wingers down low for easy goals.”
The Eagles played their second game of the day hours later against the hometown team, the Powell River Kings, and according to Handley, the team’s performance wasn’t anything worth writing home about. “It was not our best effort versus Powell River,” he said, noting the final score was 10-1 for the Kings, with the Eagles’ lone goal coming from Bono in the second period.
The Eagles regrouped after the tough loss and set their mind to winning their next game against the Bulldogs in order to make it to the tournament final.
“The team battled hard and found a way to hang on for the win,” said Handley, adding the Eagles’ goaltender Griffin Handley “kept us in the game early until we got on the board.”
The Eagles scored three times in the second period courtesy of Klatt, Roper, and Bono, and then Bono added one more goal in the third to seal the deal on a very close 4-3 win. “Our power play was very good and the penalty kill also did its job,” Handley stated, adding he felt Bono had turned in his best game of the tournament so far.
With the win over the Bulldogs official, the Eagles earned the right to play in the gold medal game in a rematch against the hometown team, the Kings.
The Eagles “got down 2-0 early, but we battled back to tie it 2-2,” said Handley.
“They went up 5-2 and then we scored to make it 5-3. We had a few real good chances to make it 5-4, but their goalie made a couple of point blank saves.”
The Eagles ended up falling to the Kings 8-3, with their three goals coming from Klein-Beekman, Bono, and Roper.
“The Kings are a fast, relentless team and we had trouble matching their speed at times,” said Handley, adding “Griffin did all he could to keep us close.”
When asked how he felt the team performed overall, Handley replied he was most proud of the Eagles “for the class they play with no matter what gets thrown at them — they are a resilient group and they will be even better moving forward after having played a tough team like Powell River. We had many compliments on their class both on and off the ice, and I’m proud of the way the team represented the North Island.”