PORT McNEILL—After beginning the season with a pair of ties and two narrow losses, the North Island Eagles bantams closed out their tiering schedule with a 2-1 victory over visiting Comox at Chilton Regional Arena Sunday.
“It took us about a half today to figure out what they needed to do to win,” said Boni Sharpe, the bantams’ head coach. “Halfway through the game the forward lines got it going.”
Jake Grinnell scored the tying goal in the second period and Josh Walkus netted the game-winner in the third as the Eagles erased an early 1-0 deficit. Netminder Nyck Ruel, who played full games both Saturday and Sunday, picked up the win after shutting out the Chiefs over the final 34 minutes.
Mercedes Trevor, Tanner Roberts and Sean Pineda each collected assists in the win.
The victory gave the Eagles a split of their home weekend doubleheader, following a 5-3 loss Saturday to Cowichan Valley.
“(Saturday) was definitely a higher caliber of hockey,” said Sharpe, whose team battled from behind to tie the game 3-3 before the Capitals pulled out the win with two late goals. “I think we have the ‘want’ to win, but sometimes that overrides the need to play smart hockey.”
The bantams finished the five-game placement schedule with a 1-2-2 record. The were so evenly matched with all five opponents that their total goal differential for five games was minus-1. The Tier 3 Eagles have this weekend off and will await to hear which division they’ll be placed in for the coming regular season.
“I’m hoping we get put in Tier 3, Division 3,” said Sharpe. “I want to be playing these guys again; we should stay in our division.”
Pushed around for most of the first half of Saturday’s game and trailing 2-0 coming out of the mid-game intermission, the Eagles got their offence going in the second half.
Kenton Browne got things started for the Eagles shortly after the puck drop to open the second half of play. Pushing in from the right side, Browne fired a shot that Capitals goalie Tyson Duffe steered past the far post. But Browne alertly chased the play behind the net and grabbed his own rebound for a quick wraparound put-back that drew the bantams to 2-1 at 11:11 of the second.
Cowichan restored its two-goal edge when Brandon Mytts jarred the puck loose as Ruel tried to cover a rebound, and punched in the point-blank shot at 16:30.
Browne struck again for the Eagles just 32 seconds into the final period when he got free on a breakaway and went top shelf from the low slot to make it 3-2.
Just 14 seconds later, the bantams tied the contest 3-3 when newcomer Grinnell deflected home a puck sent in from behind the net by Mercedes Trevor. A second assist went to Tanner Roberts on the play.
A key, five-minute stretch of play followed in which each team was granted power-play opportunities, including stretches of 5-on-3 play. But neither team was able to capitalize, and the 3-3 score held into the final minutes.
The opportunistic Capitals struck for the go-ahead goal at 16:44 on a redirected shot from the back side that Ruel had virtually no chance at. Cowichan closed the scoring with a similar goal, when Nelson Wagner’s shot from the low left circle skittered through the crease and was punched home by teammate Parker Bergstrom, left unchecked behind Ruel.