PORT ALICE—Much of the early-season action for the North Island Eagles atom development team has been a bouncy, white-knuckled ride. But it was strictly smooth sailing as the atoms cruised past Comox B 14-3 in the teams’ final placement-round game Saturday at Doug Bondue Arena.
“I thought, other than a five- or six-minute stretch of the second period, it was our best game yet,” coach Ryan Handley said.
A couple of the usual suspects — second-year atoms Ethan Bono and Tyler Roper — each posted hat tricks as the Eagles overcame an early 1-0 deficit to the visiting Chiefs. But Alert Bay’s Daunte McKinney also lit the lamp three times for his first hat trick, and teammates Cole Klughart, Evan Manke, Matthew Datos and Tyler Fuller also scored as the atoms pressured the Chiefs across shift changes.
“We run three lines, and all of them played great,” fellow assistant coach Steve Verbrugge said. “They controlled the puck, passed well … they’re really coming together as a team.”
Bono finished with five goals, including three straight in the third period, and a pair of assists. Roper, playing on home ice, had three assists to go with his three goals.
Kai Verbrugge and Klughart each added two assists, and Fuller, Ethan Hunt and Jack Hurley contributed helpers as the Eagles extended a 4-1 first-period lead to 7-2 after two periods and raced away in the third.
“For us to be successful, we’ve got to be a three-line team,” said Handley.
The Eagles have had no trouble scoring in the young season, but in previous exhibition and tiering games had often found themselves trying to outpoint opponents in high-scoring, back-and-forth matchups.
Saturday’s big offensive output was matched by stingy defensive play in front of goalie Griffin Handley, who was not tasked with stopping the series of breakaways and odd-man rushes that had plagued the young team in its early games.
“It’s really a simple game if you pass the puck and play together as a team,” Ryan Handley said.
The atoms travel this weekend for a tournament in Saanich while they await their league placement and schedule. Regular-season play is expected to begin the weekend of Nov. 15-16.