PORT McNEILL — It’s been three years since Triport Minor Hockey has fielded an atom development rep team.
On Saturday, the North Island Eagles hockey newcomers debuted in impressive fashion with an 11-6 romp over the Campbell River Tyees in a preseason exhibition atom development game at Chilton Regional Arena.
Clayton Bono and Mathew Saunders of Port McNeill each had hat tricks and tallied five points and Justin Sexton of Port Alice contributed four points. Goaltending duties were split between Michael McLaughlin and Avary Miller, both of Port Hardy.
The team is made up of players from all three communities who competed last season in the atom or novice programs for their respective associations. They were thrown together for the first time two weeks ago, but for several stretches of Saturday’s game performed like an experienced unit.
“That’s one of our positives, how well they came together as a team,” head coach Marty Gage said. “You could see it on the ice.
“Traditionally, I think that’s been one of our strong points here on the North Island — how well our kids do working together.”
Bono handled the opening goal on his own, stealing a Tyees pass just outside the blue line and breaking away to deke and slip a backhander past the opposing goalie just 28 seconds into the game.
But most of the scoring was done within the run of play, with some nifty crossing passes and forechecking contributing to the offensive outburst.
On defence, the Eagles blueliners held up well in their own zone, shielding their goalies and quickly clearing rebounds.
“The kids performed awesomely,” Gage said. “I’m thrilled with their performance. They listened well, and they worked hard all the way through.”
The Eagles put the game away with five straight goals in the second and third periods.
from Bono, Sexton and Saunders.
Campbell River bounced back with back-to-back scores 23 seconds apart near the middle of the second, and briefly tied the game 3-3 with a bouncing shot from the point at 10:25 of the period.
But Saunders and Rhys Dutcyvich answered with goals over the final 2:19 of the period and the Eagles restored their dominance in the third, with Saunders scoring again less than two minutes in and Bono potting two of his three goals in the period to make it 8-3.
Bono finished with four goals and an assist and Saunders had three goals and two assists. Jackson Cole of Port Alice added a goal in the victory.
The atoms begin tiering placement action this weekend with a trip to Port Alberni. The team plays its first three placement games on the road before returning to play its next home game Oct. 15 against Comox.