The North Island Bantam Eagles played on home ice for the first time since winning their Tier 3 playoff banner last February, and it was a bit of a rough homecoming for the team, though not without some positives.
The Bantam Eagles squared off with the tier 3 Sooke Thunderbirds on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill, and the 1st period started off quick with the Eagles’ Braden Walkus netting the first goal of the game at 14:32.
The Thunderbirds battled back, scoring two goals to end the 1st period with a 2-1 lead, and they kept on scoring from there, adding six more goals to take a 8-1 lead as the 2nd period came to a close.
The Eagles’ Payton Laming scored with 2:47 left in the 3rd, but that was all she wrote as the game came to a close 10-2 for the Thunderbirds.
The Eagles’ coach Marty Gage was quick to say that the Bantams are a different team this year, and that the Thunderbirds hadn’t played in the league last season so the boys didn’t know what to expect from them. “The wheels fell off the bus a bit with discipline,” he added, as the Eagles managed to rack up 18 penalty minutes over the course of the game.
The Eagles had a serious challenge ahead of them the next day on Sunday, Oct. 2 with a game against the Tier 2 Campbell River Tyees.
The Tyees made it to provincials last March, and Gage knew it was going to be a tough challenge for the Eagles to pull out the win.
The team, however, had other ideas. They came out of the gate looking to score some big goals, and with 5:08 left in the period Luke Gage netted a power play goal to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead going into the 2nd period.
The Tyees scored at 16:06 of the 2nd period to tie it up, but the Eagles’ Laming answered with another power play goal at 14:56 to take the lead back 2-1.
The Eagles played hard the rest of the game and never quit on themselves, but the Tyees were just too big and too strong of a team.
They grinded the Eagles down over the 2nd and 3rd period with hard-hitting physical play, and ended up scoring seven more goals to take the preseason win 8-2.
Gage was proud of his team after the hard fought loss, stating that it was the Eagles’ “gutsiest performance so far,” and adding that the team just needs to play “more disciplined hockey” from here on out, and that the Eagles’ “will be going home feeling good about themselves” after this game, because even though they lost, they still tried their hardest to win with the odds stacked against them.
Gage isn’t sure yet which tier the Eagles will be playing in this coming season, but he knows the team will be having some tough games no matter where they end up.