North Island Eagles defenseman Matt Lingl and goalie Riley Mathieson eye a flying puck in front of the net during Saturday's Tier 3 playoff game against Powell River.

Bantam Eagles face must-win road trip

PORT McNEILL-Powell River wins close battle in opener of best-of-3 finals series

PORT McNEILL—In the first period of Saturday’s Tier 3 playoff hockey game, a wayward bird flew onto the ice of Chilton Regional Arena.

It might have proven a better omen had the bird been an eagle.

The North Island Eagles bantams jumped to the early lead on a pair of Matthew Cahill goals, but the Powell River Kings fought back for a 4-2 win that left the Eagles one game away from elimination in the Vancouver Island Championship series.

The best-of-3 series now moves to Powell River, with game 2 scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. If the Eagles win, they would force a deciding game 3 Sunday at 8:45 a.m. on the Kings’ home ice.

Both of the bantams’ playoff victories this season have come on the road. If they can extend that success with a win in Powell River, it will be the first for the squad in five tries this season.

Both clubs played in Division 2 this season with several Tier 2 programs. Powell River finishing in second place, while the Eagles were 0-10 in last place.

“We’re closing in on ’em,” Eagles coach Dan Wilson said, noting an 8-1 blowout loss to the Kings in the teams’ first meeting. The second game was a 1-0 league loss in Port Alice. In the third meeting, during the Vancouver Island North round-robin playoff, the Eagles led 2-1 into the third period before suffering a disastrous five-minute meltdown.

The Eagles again led 2-1 Saturday before the visitors tied it with a goal midway through the second period and went ahead to stay on a power-play goal with 7:19 to play in the period.

“When we’re out on the ice and all the guys are clicking together, we’re OK,” said Wilson. “But too much of the time we’ll have this guy clicking now, the a couple others clicking later.”

The Powell River program moved down from Tier 2 to Tier 3 this year, and boast a more experienced and deeper squad. Essentially, Wilson said, the Kings have more room for error than the Eagles, who must be on the top of their game — as a group — from start to finish.

“They have more legs,” Wilson said of the Kings. “They just keep coming at you. They move the puck well and they skate well.”

They were especially hard on the bantams’ penalty killers. Powell River opened scoring on its first man-advantage chance, at 4:01 of the first period, and got the game-winner on a textbook power-play goal on a pass from behind the net that found Colby Shelton in stride in the low slot for a snap one-timer.

The Eagles came out hard in the third period and had several quality opportunities to tie the score, but were turned aside by Kings goalie Chase Krompacker and his defence. The visitors finally got an insurance goal by turning the tables, using a long lead pass while the Eagles were crowding the offensive zone to free Tristen Hackett for a breakaway goal at 13:16 of the third.

“We had a good jump in the third period, but it always comes down to that next goal,” said Wilson. “If we go in and score there it’s a different game. But then they take the puck and put one in the other way, and it completely changes the momentum.”

Cahill gave the Eagles the momentum to close out the first period, scoring twice to erase the Kings’ early lead. Darryl Coon and Alexander Stavrakov assisted on both goals as the bantams carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

The Eagles bounced back from their previous loss to Powell River by traveling to Kerry Park and upsetting the Islanders, the top seed in the Island’s South Division, in the semifinals. Earlier, they opened the playoffs with a 5-2 road win at Campbell River.

They will need to find that road magic two more times to earn the Island’s berth into the Tier 3 provincial championships. The Eagles bantams have won the past two Vancouver Island Tier 3 titles, but only four players on the current team were part of last year’s provincial team.

“These guys have made huge improvement from the start of the season,” Wilson said. “But there are still more steps to go.”

 

Just Posted

VIDEO: Local athletes fell their competition at Port McNeill Logger Sports event

The Briscoe sisters will be travelling to upcoming Logger Sports shows all throughout the summer.

Remains of two people found in Ucluelet

Officials have not said whether or not the remains belong to Ryan Daley or Dan Archbald

‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

UBC researchers say dads don’t have to be number one in the office to get a raise

B.C. turns up the heat

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for most the province due to high temperatures

Crush win again – outlasting Blue Sox at Father’s Day Classic

The Blue Sox had an early lead after three innings, but the Crush responded back with heavy hitting.

Canada won’t ‘play politics’ on U.S. migrant children policy

The U.S. government is under fire over its ”zero tolerance” policy

Late goal gives England 2-1 win over Tunisia

At the last World Cup in 2014, England couldn’t even win a game

Canadian military police officer pleads not guilty to sex assault

Sgt. Kevin MacIntyre, 48, entered his plea today at a court martial proceeding in Halifax

June/July Hot Spots

Find out what’s going on in the North Island (June 20-27)

North Island College gets $328,000 for forestry education funding

Announcement in Campbell River part of $1 million around B.C.

Cheers erupt as Federal Court judge approves historic gay purge settlement

Gay military veterans said they were interrogated, harassed and spied on because of their sexuality

Helping B.C.’s helpers cope

The MRT has helped almost 7,000 first responders and street workers in 57 communities in B.C.

Border officials argue B.C. man’s Facebook posts threat to Canada’s security

A B.C. Supreme Court judge acquitted Othman Hamdan of terrorism charges last September

Reena Virk’s mother has died

Both of Virk’s parents became activists against bullying in wake of daughter’s death

Most Read