PORT ALICE—The North Island Eagles and their Campbell River counterparts combined for just a single goal through nearly two and a half periods of their Vancouver Island Hockey League atom development game Saturday.
That was little indication of what was to come over the final 11 minutes.
Eagles defenseman Joey Grant rifled home back-to-back goals to kick off a late-game outburst as the hosts pulled away for a 5-1 victory at the local arena.
Ethan Bono and Cole Klughart also sandwiched goals around Campbell River’s lone tally, a breakaway score by Brady Estabrook, as the teams combined for five goals in 10 minutes.
“We started slow, but came out hard in the second and third period and stuck to the game plan,” Eagles coach Ray Bono said. “The coaching staff was proud of them today; we’re getting them to do what we want them to do.”
A week earlier, on a road trip south, the atoms swept a pair of league games, but Bono said the team played just well enough to win — rather than playing their best every shift.
“They were kind of falling into that trap of thinking they deserve to win; that the other team will just roll over. We’re trying to teach them they need to come out and win every shift.”
In the early going Saturday, it was the visiting Tyees controlling much of the play with a solid forecheck in the North Islanders’ end. Thanks to solid positional defence and the goaltending of Kayden Jones, the Eagles kept the visitors off the board until the offence began to assert itself and tilt the ice the other way in the second period.
Campbell River goalie Cameron Vaughan was Jones’ equal until hometown skater Tyler Roper put the Eagles on the board at 11:19 of the second period by converting a crossing pass from Ethan Bono from the right circle.
That slender 1-0 edge held up until 10:36 remained. That’s when Grant carried the puck into the Tyee zone, turned to elude a defender at the top of the circle, and lifted a wrist shot from the high slot into the back of the net to make it 2-0. Four minutes later, he snuck an almost identical shot just inside the upper corner of the post for a 3-0 lead.
Campbell River responded when Estabrook broke in alone and decked Jones to the ice before skating around the downed goalie for a short forehand score at 14:03. But Ethan Bono needed only 11 seconds to restore the three-goal lead by rushing the Campbell River zone and firing home a shot at speed.
Klughart capped the scoring with 1:51 left when he won a footrace to the puck on a dump-in and tapped home an easy backhand after Vaughan missed on an attempted poke-check away from the net.