Matthew Cahill scored a hat trick, including the game-winner and one of his team’s two shorthanded goals, as the North Island Eagles bantam rep hockey team continued its surprising run through the Vancouver Island Hockey League Tier 3 playoffs Saturday with an 8-6 semifinal win at Kerry Park.
Tyren Dustin added two goals and two assists for the Eagles, who charged from behind after trailing 3-0 against the top-seeded team from Vancouver Island South in the sudden-death, single-game playoff.
The bantams will now go on to a best-of-three finals series against fellow Vancouver Island North nemesis Powell River, which defeated Sooke 3-1 in last week’s other semifinal.
The Eagles will host Game 1 Sunday at 11 a.m. at Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill, the team’s final home game of the season.
Game 2 and, if necessary, a deciding Game 3 would be played the following week in Powell River.
The winner of the series will represent Vancouver Island in the Provincial Tier 3 Championships Mar. 18-23 in Burnaby.
Riley Heemels, Darryl Coon and Kale White added goals and Riley Mathieson earned the win in goal as the bantams enjoyed their highest scoring output since the preseason. Cahill and Dustin both had shorthanded goals as the Eagles rallied from the early 3-0 deficit despite being whistled for 16 penalty minutes to eight minutes for the hosts.
Coon, White and Matt Lingl each had assists in the win.
The Eagles are the defending Island champions, but return only four players from last year’s provincial-qualifying squad — Mathieson, Coon, Cahill and Dustin. Cahill played “up” as a second-year peewee last season. Dustin rejoined the program at midseason after starting the 2011-12 campaign with the Port McNeill Minor Hockey house bantams.
After a successful preseason, the team was moved up to Division 2 for league play, where it finished 0-10 and scored more than two goals only once. But the Eagles notched a 5-2 road win over Campbell River to start the Vancouver Island North playoffs and led eventual top seed Powell River 2-0 before a late-game collapse led to a home loss in Port Hardy Feb. 10.