Cullen Plester of Cowichan Valley tumbles after colliding with Liem Wadhams of the North Island Eagles atom development team during Saturday's hockey game in Port McNeill.

Less than best good enough for atoms

Coach Marty Gage came away with mixed reviews of his young hockey club after weekend showing.

PORT McNEILL—After watching his team dispatch Cowichan Valley 5-2 Saturday, North Island Eagles atom development coach Marty Gage came away with mixed reviews of his young hockey club.

“Well, that wasn’t our best game,” he said. “In the first period the guys were bang on. Then we let them back into it a little bit.”

Even without wire-to-wire dominance, it was still an impressive showing for a small squad evenly mixed between first- and second-year atom skaters.

Mathew Saunders scored a pair of goals and Kayden Jones came up with several key saves as the Eagles, who suit up just 12 players, improved to 8-3 on the season.

“It’s a small team, so they’re coming together really well,” said Gage. Most of our second years played rep last year, but it’s a big jump up for the new kids.

“I’m lovin’ it.”

The atoms raced out to a 3-0 lead on first-period goals by Saunders, Rhys Dutcyvich and Luke Gage, then pushed their advantage to 4-0 on Saunders’ second goal of the game midway through the second period.

That’s when Cowichan Valley began its, behind back-to-back goals from Jake Norton at 7:41 of the second period and 1:24 of the third to bring the Capitals within 4-2.

But the Eagles buckled down defensively, and finally broke through for the final score when Payton Laming took a nifty crossing pass from Dutcyvich for an easy, point-blank chip into the open side of the net with 6:45 to play.

“It was a good defensive game,” said Gage, who awarded player of the game honours to blueliner Liem Wadhams.

Dutcyvich finished with a pair of assists and Laming and Aidan Watson added helpers.

Watson will help inaugurate his home rink when the Eagles face Nanimo this Saturday at 3 p.m. at Port Alice Arena.