PORT HARDY—The North Island Eagles atom development team is used to seeing runaway scores like 7-1 on the scoreboard this season.
They’re just not used to being on the low end.
But that was the deficit the Eagles faced Sunday against the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena, as the home side lost for the first time in league play last weekend.
To give the home side its due, the Eagles fought hard to rally back to 7-5 before an empty-netter clinched it for the down-Islanders.
The game could easily have gone the other way. The Eagles opened the stronger of the two sides, creating a half-dozen solid chances in the opening ten minutes. But Juan de Fuca net minder Aksel Sheppard was in top form and kept the scoreboard blank.
The visitors got the breakthrough late in the first before exploding in the second, racing away to 4-0 before the home side found an answer, Tyler Roper’s pass finding Keenan Saunders for the conversion.
The celebrations were short-lived, however. The Grizzlies back-doored two more in a minute and a half to race all but out of sight.
The Eagles got their first power play with 13 minutes left in the third and saw a short-handed JdF goal make it 7-1. That goal brought the Eagles to life and kickstarted a fierce comeback from the home side.
Joey Grant found the net with the advantage before captain Tynan Klein-Beekman slotted home to make it 7-3 with the minutes ticking down.
The Eagles kept the pressure on and rode their luck when a backhanded shot from Ethan Bono was tipped into the air by netminder Sheppard, who then fumbled the catch into the net as the momentum swing continued.With 3:45 left, Roper found Klein-Beekman for his second to bring the home side within two.
The Grizzlies made a goalie change in an attempt to stem the flow of goals before a roughing call gave the home side a man advantage with 1:29 left to play.
The Eagles went all-out, pulling goalie Kayden Jones and skating six-on-four but a breakaway empty-netter sealed the win for the Grizzlies.
The game was an exact echo of the previous day’s exhibition matchup, which also ended 8-5 for the Grizzlies. Grant scored twice and Klein-Beekman, Saunders and Bono had one each for the Eagles.
“I don’t think (Juan de Fuca) are any better than us,” said coach Ray Bono after Sunday’s game. “It’s good for the kids to take a loss. They were a little scared to play out there today. We’ll see them again in the playoffs.”
The atoms have one more weekend of league play before the playoffs, facing off against Victoria Racquet Club at home on February 16.