The North Island Eagles atom side don’t yet know who they’ll be facing in the playoffs, but after a dominant season atop Division 4, the young skaters will relish the challenge whoever the opposition.
The atoms rounded out the regular season last weekend, putting paid to Victoria Racquet Club 6-1 in exhibition Saturday, and 11-3 in Sunday’s season wrap-up.
In Saturday’s game the Eagles only found their gear late in the second period, but when they did they raced out of sight. Four goals in a little over two minutes left the visitors reeling before the home side coasted through the third.
Keenan Saunders reacted first in a goal-mouth scramble late in the period to open the account for the Eagles. With a little under three minutes left in the period, Dawson Hudock drove in with the puck and saw his shot deflect onto the post. Two defenders and the VRC goalie turned to see the puck on the line but Saunders was already in motion from the corner and got there ahead of the traffic to convert.
Tyler Roper made it 2-0 just 30 seconds later. Breaking down the ice in a one-on-one, Roper responded to the cry of “Wheel!” coming from the bench, his turn of pace leaving the defenseman chasing as Roper casually went left and over the legs of the VRC goalie.
Not to be outdone, Joey Grant had a breakaway of his own with 1:38 left in the second. Bursting forward from his own blueline, Grant raced ahead with a VRC player on his shoulder. A cheeky check on the crease sent the defenseman sprawling to avoid his goalie’s butterfly while the composed Grant pushed the puck around the pair and into the empty net.
Saunders made it four in two minutes for the Eagles, once again the first to the puck on a rebound. Daunte McKinney did the hard work, weaving through the opposition to fashion a shot and Saunders was on hand to pick up the deflection, sliding in on his knees to nudge the puck home.
After opening by far the stronger of the two sides, the Eagles were almost punished for not converting that dominance into a lead as the visitors gradually grew in confidence. What had been one-way traffic early on became a real contest with the Victoria defensemen cutting out passes time and again before surging forward on the break.
A standout performance from Eagles goalie Kayden Jones kept the scoreline level until the Eagles punched it up a notch in the second. Jones was a minute away from the shutout before VRC finally found a way past, a breakaway shot squeezing past the Eagles net minder.
By that stage the Eagles were in the clear however, goals from Roper and captain Tynan Klein-Beekman in the third period giving the Eagles the 6-1 win.
The next day the atoms wrapped up the season in style, an 11-3 win over VRC giving the side a 9-1 record for the season.
This time the Eagles found their stride straight out of the gate, roaring away to a 7-0 lead before the visitors found an answer. The Eagles pushed out to 10-1 in the third before late strikes from both sides left it 11-3 at the buzzer.
Ethan Bono led the scoring Sunday with five, Saunders netted twice and Roper, Grant, Klein-Beekman and Cole Klughart got one apiece.
Klughart added four assists in the win, with Roper helping on three, Bono twice and one assist each from McKinney, Klein-Beekman, Grant and Saunders.