After a red-hot streak in preseason tiering where they went undefeated with a 5-0 record, it’s been a bit of a tough start to the regular season for the North Island Bantam Eagles.
The Eagles qualified to play in VIAHA’s Tier 2 division this year and their opening game was held down island against the Sooke Thunderbirds, which they ended up tying 5-5 thanks to goals in all three periods from Tristan Mardell, David Klatt, Cole Klughart (x2), and Joey Grant.
“Our group played well, we mixed up the power play and moved Cole up on the wing and dropped Joey back to the point,” said coach Ryan Handley. “Cole is a tireless worker and nine times out of 10 he wins the battles in front and he had probably his best game of the year and was rewarded with two big goals.”
Handley added he felt the tie game showed the team they “belong in Tier 2 and these are the types of games we need moving forward.”
The Eagles played the Nanaimo Clippers on Oct. 29, where they ended up falling 4-2.
It was a valuable learning experience for the Eagles as Nanaimo “are a strong team,” said Handley. “We had a couple mental breakdowns that cost us a couple goals early — we hit a few posts and just couldn’t get the bounces.”
The Eagles looked to rebound from the loss in a game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the Doug Bondue Arena in Port Alice last Saturday.
The Bulldogs struck first with a goal at 1:15 of the first period, but the Eagles’ captain Tynan Klein-Beekman responded in the second with a great wrist shot from the slot to tie the game back up 1-1 going into the ice clean.
“We started really good, had some jump and spent the majority of the first period in their zone,” said Handley, adding, “at the ice clean we were in a real good position tied 1-1, but the bench looked down… I’m not really sure what happened after the clean, we looked uninspired and our emotions were completely headed in the wrong direction.”
The Bulldogs took over the game from there, punishing the Eagles with bodychecks and winning the battles for the puck against the boards, while also scoring five clutch goals to give them a big lead.
Mardell scored a late goal in the third to make it 6-2, but that was how the game officially came to an end.
Handley was frustrated after the loss, stating, “let’s hope this is rock bottom because I was not very happy with their commitment and I let them know that after the game. We are either going to work to get out of this state of mind or our season is going to be a very long one.”
The Eagles will look to pick up their first win of the season on Saturday, Nov. 18 in a league game against the Powell River Kings at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill at 4:30 p.m.