Bantam Eagles finish season

The North Island Bantam Eagles Provincial run finally came to an end in Smithers, BC.

The North Island Bantam Eagles travelled over 19 hours, 1,633.8 kilometres to be exact, to the Northwest

interior town of Smithers, B.C. for the opportunity to compete in the Tier 3 Provincial Bantam Hockey

Championships. While the Eagles would come up just short of reaching the semi-finals, they still arrived back

home to the Tri-Port with unforgettable memories that every player on the team will no doubt remember for a

lifetime. “The Eagles played to the end, fought through a short bench, and in their last game just ran out of

gas,” said Coach Greg Fox, reflecting on how the Provincial Championships unfolded.Playing to the end is

nothing new for the Eagles. The team has consistently charged head first into battle from the very start of their

season, whether it was holding their own in Tier 2 league play against the other Vancouver Island League

teams, beating the Saanich Braves in a wild, back and forth best-of-three playoff finals in front of a hometown

crowd, or finishing their last Provincial Championship game against the North Shore Winter Club, where they

went out on their shield after injuries and exhaustion finally put an end to their incredible playoff run.   “I’m

extremely proud of this team,” said Fox. “The goal was to make Provincials from the very start.”The Eagles

started off the Provincial Championships on Sunday, March 13, with a frustrating 10-4 loss to the hometown

team the Smithers Storm, where it was the referees who ended up playing a significant factor throughout the

game, severely affecting the Eagles’ momentum.”It was a very slow paced game, the refs made it clear who

was in charge with a combined total of 83 penalty minutes, 51 to the Eagles,” said Fox.The Eagles put the

penalty-filled game behind them, refocused on their goal and prepared for their second game on Monday,

March 14, against the Cranbrook Mustangs, where they got out to a quick start in the 1st period with Matthew

Saunders scoring at 8:54 and Luke Gage adding another goal at 5:31 to take a 2-0 lead. The Mustangs scored

twice after to tie it up, but Clayton Bono netted a goal with 1:50 left to give the Eagles a 3-2 lead.The 2nd

period was a bit of a defensive stalemate, and the Mustangs scored the only goal of the period to tie the game

up 3-3. The Eagles’ Devin White managed to get the puck in the net at 11:32 of the 3rd period to take the lead

back, but with only 1:03 left to play, the Mustangs scored to tie it up once again. The Eagles, determined not to

let the game slip from their grasp, fought back and it was Bono who notched his second goal of the game with

only 35 seconds left to pull off the win 5-4.”We had a very good start,” said Fox. “Unfortunately we struggled to

play within the perimeters of the tournament refs. The team persevered, battled through it and scored late in

the third to win.”  The Eagles’ third game was on Tuesday, March 15, against Dawson Creek, and it was easily

“their best game. Everyone played extremely well,” said Fox. The Eagles scored four goals in the 1st period

alone, courtesy of Evan Fox, White, Rhys Dutcyvich, and Carson Strang. Strang netted his second goal of the

game in the 2nd period, and Dutcyvich and Saunders added a goal each in the 3rd period to clench a 7-2 win in

high-scoring, decisive fashion.The Eagles fourth and final game was later on that same day, and this was

where the road unfortunately ended as they lost 12-3 in a hard-fought battle to the previously mentioned North

Shore Winter Club. The Eagles depleted bench “definitely played a role,” said Fox. “We were short Elliot

Furney, Payton Laming and Michael Perez, and North Shore was the top ranked team in our pool. It’s always

tough when you lose the last game of a season, but we watched a very tired, short bench do everything they

could to win in what turned out to be a very lopsided game. None of these players are okay with losing, that’s

what makes them great competitive athletes, but in the dressing room afterwards, we watched the players

support each other and a few minutes later, they were all laughing and telling stories.”With the Eagles’

Provincial Championships run officially over, the team headed back home with their heads held high, knowing

that in spite of the odds against them, they still put forth their best effort to try and win. And that alone makes

them winners, regardless of what the game sheet says. When asked if he had anything else to say about the

the Eagles season, Fox was quick to reply that none of this would have been possible “without the tremendous

support we received from our local communities. Thank you to everyone who donated money, bought raffle

tickets, and gave us bottles,” adding that he would also like to thank all “the coaches, managers, fundraisers,

supportive parents, fans who came to watch us play, non-parent volunteers and the referees. The Eagles did

their utmost to represent the North Island.”