It sure is nice to be back after a few weeks off from writing this column. With that quick intro out of the way, let’s get right down to business and dive into some local sports talk.
With league play winding down (only the Tri-Port Wild and the North Island Atom Eagles have games left), I thought it would be the perfect time to “hand out” my North Island Gazette Minor Hockey Awards!
Please keep in mind my awards are just for fun. The coaches hand out the real awards at the end of the year banquets.
Without further adieu, lets break down each team’s season.
North Island Midget Eagles: The midgets had a decent start to the season, showing some real promise with a high scoring line of Carson Strang, Benton Browne, and Clayton Bono. The Eagles went 1-1 on their first weekend of league play, falling to the Port Alberni Bulldogs and then defeating the Nanaimo Clippers the day after. The team ended up folding soon after that.
North Island Bantam Eagles: The bantams were a continuous whirlwind of on-ice destruction this season, throwing big hits and scoring a ton of goals. The Eagles won a league banner thanks to posting a perfect regular season record of 10-0, with a stunning 69 goals for and only 13 goals against.
North Island Peewee Eagles: The peewees have a special group of players this year and they challenged themselves by playing in VIAHA’s Tier Two division against some of the top teams on Vancouver Island. The Eagles posted a solid record of 5-6-1, with 66 goals for and 82 goals against.
North Island Atom Eagles: After scrambling to find enough players to form a team, the atoms have shown great strides in team play, racking up a solid 5-3-1 record so far with 51 goals for and 40 goals against. The Eagles are sitting in second place in their division and still have one game left to play this season.
Tri-Port Midget Wild: After a tough loss and a tie against the Oceanside Ice Breakers to start the season, the Wild quickly turned things around by winning three straight games. The Wild are currently in second place in their division with a 5-1-3 record with one game left to play against Campbell River.
Tri-Port Peewee Wild: It’s been a season of learning so far for the peewee girls, as the majority of the team are just now getting a taste of what it’s like to play on a travelling team against tough competition. The Wild have posted a 2-7 record so far with 32 goals for and 55 against, and they still have one game left to play against Campbell River.
Male forward of the year: Jack Barrett/Zach Spafford. Both players put up a stunning amount of goals for the peewee Eagles, scoring anywhere from 3-5 goals a game, and sometimes even higher.
Hon mention: Kai Verbrugge. Kai’s a first year bantam and has shown an excellent nose for finding the back of the net.
Female forward of the year: Jessica Blodgett. Jessica plays for the North Island Atom Eagles and has looked great offensively all season, shooting and passing the puck well and getting on the scoreboard quite often.
Hon mention: Kaitlyn Wilson. Kaitlyn dominates faceoffs and has used her wicked wrist shot to score a good amount of goals this season. Very underrated player for the Wild.
Defenceman of the year: Mannie Browne. Mannie throws huge bodychecks and is a fast skater with good hands. Watch for him to make some real noise next season as he continues to progress towards a junior career if he wants to keep playing.
Hon mention: William Harrison. “Slapshot Willie” showed off his firepower from the blueline all season, and is technically sound at shutting down offensive chances.
Defencewoman of the year: Madison Van Will. My dad calls her “Triple A” for a reason. Madison is lightning fast on the ice and shoots the puck with serious power.
Hon mention: Akira Isaac. Akira showed excellent defensive skills this season and also chipped in offensively. Definitely a player to watch.
Male goaltender: Griffin Handley. Griffin statistically was unmatched this season, letting in only 13 goals and recording nine shutouts. A major achievement. Probably the best goalie the Eagles have produced since Nigel Walkus.
Hon mention: Sebastian Jolliffe. Sebastian plays for the Port McNeill Bantam Whalers and he backstopped the team to gold medals at a house league tournament, shutting the door twice in a shootout. Incredible performance.
Female goaltender: Avary Miller. Avary is the heart and soul of the Tri-Port Midget Wild, she always comes to play and her compete level is through the roof. Look for her to keep playing competitively after she graduates.
Hon mention: Sydney Greer. Sydney picked up a well deserved shutout this season against the Nanaimo Clippers, showing some real promise in the net.
Male MVP: David Klatt. Klatt’s bantam Eagles put together a perfect 10-0 season, with David leading them the entire way as the captain.
Female MVP: Adysen Verbrugge. Adysen went from playing defence for a rep hockey team to joining the all female peewee Wild team as a forward. She showed off her scoring touch this year and will keep getting better as she progresses in her minor hockey career.
Coaches of the year:
Al Rushton, Jamie Harrison, Kale Henschke, and Shay Peterson. The North Island Atom Eagles almost weren’t able to form a team this year due to lack of players, and yet they still came close to winning a league banner, while also tying the top team in their division, the Sooke Thunderbirds, in a game earlier this season. These dedicated coaches put in a lot of time and effort teaching the youngest Eagle athletes the game.
Game of the year: North Island Bantam Eagles vs. Juan De Fuca Grizzlies. The Eagles were down four key players with their undefeated season on the line against a team that had only lost once all season. In what was a stunning comeback, the Eagles somehow prevailed 5-4 after digging down deep within themselves to earn the win.
That’s it from me, I had fun at the freezing cold rink every weekend this season watching the hardworking North Island youth play the game they love the most.