PORT McNEILL — A large crowd of fans gathered at Chilton Arena Saturday with the intention of celebrating.
The North Island Eagles bantam rep hockey team made sure they were not kept in suspense.
Tyson Cadwallader scored a first-period hat trick and Curtis McCarrick duplicated the feat in the second as the Eagles romped to a 10-1 win over Victoria to clinch the Vancouver Island Hockey League Tier 3 championship.
“When the guys came out of the tunnel they didn’t see the crowd,” coach Mike Bell said of his normally slow-starting team. “When they started doing their warmup laps they saw and went, ‘Holy cow!’
“We got the quick start we needed, and there was no looking back.”
The bantams (23-11) swept the best-of-3 finals series against the Hawks to finish the Island playoffs with a 6-0 record. They now advance to the provincial championships Mar. 20-25 in Smithers. It will be the third straight provincials berth for the current group of second-year bantams — Cadwallader, McCarrick, Chad Bell, Coltton Slater, Riley Browne, Brandon Pelletier and Riley Mathieson. Defenseman Malcolm Browne, who missed the 2009 peewee provincials with a concussion, will be making his second straight trip.
“I think the kids have gained a lot of confidence from (provincials),” Mike Bell said. “And knowing most of those teams going in this year — we’ve seen a lot of those teams — the kids believe they can win it.”
As the horn sounded on Saturday’s victory, the players charged from the bench, sticks and gloves flying, to surround winning goalie Riley Mathieson. After Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association representative Anne Dumonceaux presented McCarrick, the captain, with the Tier 3 championship banner, the players skated a victory lap before the crowd and posed for a team photo on the ice.
Cadwallader got things rolling with his trifecta in the opening period, a potential natural hat trick broken up when the Hawks scored their lone goal on a power play at 7:13 to make it 2-1.
“Everything was going our way,” Bell said. “Tyson couldn’t do anything wrong.”
McCarrick extended the margin to 4-1 early in the second period and, after Cadwallader netted his fourth goal at 6:31, McCarrick scored back-to-back goals. A score by Brett Walker late in the period sent the Eagles into the second intermission with an 8-1 lead.
Most of the scoring was aided by the work of Chad Bell, who assisted on five goals through the first two periods. Bell finally got his own goal at 5:29 of the third, and McCarrick wrapped up the scoring with an unassisted wrist shot from the slot with 12:13 left to play.
The onslaught included even-strength, shorthanded and power-play goals, and Mathieson even got into the act with an assist when he caught Victoria on a shift change with a long clearing pass from his goal.
Aside from a helper from McCarrick, the rest of the assists were spread among the team’s defensemen — Coltton Slater and Brandon Pelletier had two each and Nick Klein-Beekman, Malcolm Brown and Darryl Coon each had one assist.
The Eagles will now turn to fund-raising to support the trip to Smithers. A bottle drive will be held Saturday at Island Foods in Port McNeill beginning at 10 a.m., with players in Port Alice and Port Hardy hosting mini-drives in their communities.
Supporters can also take part in 50/50 boards by contacting Lana Browne in Port McNeill at 250-956-4104 or Allison McCarrick in Port Hardy at 250-949-7119. Business and individuals may also contribute to the cause by mailing donations to PO Box 1554, Port McNeill, BC, V0N 2R0.