North Island Eagles atom Mathew Saunders goes down after being tripped by Alberni Valley defender Caleb Vallance during the teams' game Saturday at Chilton Regional Arena.

Atoms finish strong on final weekend of regular season

PORT McNEILL-Young Eagles host first-round playoff game Saturday at Chilton Regional Arena.

PORT McNEILL—After giving up nine goals in the opener of a weekend hockey doubleheader, the North Island Eagles atom development team bounced back strongly in a 2-1 loss to Powell River Sunday at Chilton Regional Arena.

The game followed a 9-4 loss to the Kings Saturday in an exhibition game.

“The Eagles were on their game today,” coach Marty Gage said after Sunday’s contest against one of the league’s top teams. “Our goalie, Kayden Jones, may have had his best game of the season.”

Jones got plenty of help from a defence that occasionally struggled in Saturday’s loss, turning the puck over in its own zone and even tipping one puck into the net.

Powell River scored in the final two minutes of the opening period, but the Eagles knotted Sunday’s game 1-1 when Rhys Dutcyvich converted off an assist from Mathew Saunders at 16:21 of the second.

The teams remained tied until 5:49 remained in regulation, when the Kings’ Connor Casporie scored his second of the game. Gage said his squad continued to press the attack and had several chances to tie, including a shot by Saunders that banged off the crossbar.

“The team battled in all three zones,” Gage said. “Tight games like that get down to who wants it more, and today (Alberni) just dug a little deeper.”

That kind of effort will be key this weekend as the atoms open the Tier 3 playoffs. After placing third in the division in the regular season, the Eagles will host No. 4 Sooke at 2:45 p.m. Saturday in Port McNeill.

 

Kings 9, Eagles 4

In Saturday’s weekend opener, an exhibition contest, the Eagles stuck with the visitors for the better part of two periods before the game got away.

Ryan Patterson actually staked the Eagles to a 1-0 lead when he went top shelf from the circle midway through the first period. The Kings went in front with two goals later in the period, but Saunders followed each of Powell River’s next two goals with a score of his own to keep the locals within 4-3 with less than four minutes remaining in the second period.

But a turnover led to another Kings score late in the period, and the visitors scored the first three goals of the third period to pull away before Saunders tallied again to complete his hat trick at 7:58 of the period.

“We came out strong,” said Gage. “There’s no reason we can’t play with that team, but we’ve got to play a whole game.”

Jones, under fire throughout the contest, was awarded the hard hat that accompanies the team’s Digger award. At least one of the goals he allowed came on a puck redirected by a teammate, and two more came directly off turnovers in his zone as the Kings pounced on the Eagles’ mistakes.

“You’ve got to give them some credit,” Gage said of Powell River. “They were forcing that pressure.”

Dutcyvich set up two of the Eagles’ goals, and Patterson and Peyton Dugas added assists.

 

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