PORT McNEILL—When Campbell River’s Aiden Willis scored in the opening period and the North Island Eagles’ Tyler Roper slid home an answering goal for the North Island Eagles just eight second later, it appeared the two atom development hockey teams were set to fire up a real barn-burner.
But it turned out to be nothing more than a harmless wisp of smoke.
With Eagles goalie Kayden Jones and his Tyees counterpart, Cameron Vaughan, rebuffing every attempt, the early 1-1 score held up for the rest of the contest as the squads wrapped up the exhibition contest at Chilton Regional Arena with a well-deserved tie.
Willis got the scoring started at 9:33 of the first when he got free on a breakaway and managed to roof a shot over Jones to the far corner of the net. But the Campbell River celebration was short-lived.
The Tyees won the draw on the ensuing face-off, but Roper pounced on a pass attempt just outside the Campbell River blue line and beat a defender to break in on Vaughan ahead of the Campbell River defence. The Tyees’ Aiden Watson — a former Eagle and neighbour of Roper’s in Port Alice before the Watson family relocated — tripped him up as he was shooting, but the sliding Roper gave one last punch at the puck with his stick and it slid just inside the near post as he careened past the net.
From that point, it was an evenly played contest dominated by the respective defences. On the few occasions a lone attacker got free as Willis had on the opening score, they were rebuffed by solid goaltending. But for the most part, each team controlled its own end with steady back-checking and quickly cleared pucks from the net area.
Still, there were some solid scoring chances, and they came right up until the end. Roper had another breakaway in the final minute but Vaughan managed to turn aside his shot with the blocker. Moments later, Jones somehow smothered a point-blank rebound shot by a Campbell River attacker to earn cheers and head-pats from teammates.
The Eagles’ Ethan Bono got free behind the Tyees’ defence along the right boards in the closing seconds, but with the clock running down he was unable to carry the attack to the crease, and the left-handed shooter’s soft backhand from the right circle was turned aside at the buzzer.
The atom development regular season begins this weekend and, fittingly, both the Eagles and Tyees will be slotted, along with Comox Valley and three Victoria-area teams, in Vancouver Island Hockey’s Division 4. The season schedule was still being drawn up entering the weekend; check the Gazette for scheduling updates.