It took the North Island Eagles bantams nearly a period to get their skates under them after the long drive to Victoria Saturday.
Once they did, the opening game of the Tier 3 Island hockey finals was no contest.
Matt Cahill’s goal at 13:48 of the first period kick-started a run of five consecutive scores as the Eagles rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat Victoria 7-4 and move within one victory of a berth in the provincial championships.
They will not need to return to Victoria to clinch, with the next game of the best-of-3 series set for 5 p.m. Saturday at Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill. A win would send the Eagles on to the Tier 3 provincials Mar. 20-25 in Smithers; a loss would force a rematch between the teams Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in Port McNeill, with the winner to advance.
Chad Bell (2 goals, 3 assists) and Curtis McCarrick (goal, 4 assists) each enjoyed five-point games and Clayton Ellis picked up the win in goal Saturday in Victoria. Cahill, an affiliate addition to the team from the peewee program, finished with two goals, and Malcolm Browne and Tyson Cadwallader also found the net.
The Eagles turned a 2-0 deficit into a 5-2 lead through two periods with a run that included both power-play and shorthanded goals.
After Victoria closed to 5-3 on a power-play goal early in the third period, the bantams restored control on back-to-back goals from Bell and Cahill less than a minute apart.
The hosts scored once more at 7:53 to provide the final margin.
The bantams, who played in Tier 2 through the regular season, remain unbeaten in the postseason with a 5-0 record. The team swept through the round-robin portion of the playoffs to claim the top seed, including a 5-3 road win at Victoria.
Saturday’s meeting with the Hawks will be their first on the North Island.
Cadwallader and Cole Rennie finished with two assists each Saturday. Nick Klein-Beekman and Riley Brown added one each.