The North Island Bantam Eagles travelled down island to Kerry Park to play in a Remembrance Day hockey tournament Nov. 11-13.
“This year our team has been placed in Tier 4 in the VIAHA League,” said Coach Marty Gage.
“I knew throughout tiering VIAHA would be debating whether or not we belonged in Tier 3 or 4. My fear was they’d put us in Tier 4 and all of a sudden we’d start coming together and playing to our potential. After a couple weeks of playing teams in tier 4, beating them, building confidence; my fear is starting to come true. We are starting to find ourselves, come together as a team and compete with some really good hockey teams.”
The Eagles first game was against the Tier 2 Nanaimo Clippers, and they ended up defeating them in a “1-0 game,” said Gage, adding that it was goaltender Alan Townsend’s “first shutout and wow did he play well.”
The Eagles lost to Burnaby in their next game, but Gage thought they “might be able to compete with them if we got another chance.”
Saturday morning, the Eagles faced off with the hometown team, the Kerry Park Islanders, and after falling behind and going into the halftime ice clean, “we were lucky to be tied,” said Gage. “I strongly suggested to the kids they needed to wake up and push back on the Kerry Park team who was out playing us.”
Once again the Eagles stepped up, and did they ever push back. “We ended up beating them 7-5 but most important to me was how Kerry Park became afraid of us and they were the ones panicking with the puck.”
The Eagles 4th round robin game was against Port Alberni, where they “did enough to win, but it wasn’t our strongest game, we won 4-2,” said Gage.
Sunday morning playoffs started at 6:30 a.m. vs Burnaby. “They are a strong team and they outplayed us,” said Gage, adding that the final score was “7-0. They earned it.”
The Eagles ended up playing Parksville next, who had surprisingly lost to Nanaimo in the other semifinal. “Parksville went 4-0 in the round robin and everyone figured they’d win,” said Gage.
The Eagles were down to 11 skaters with three kids out with injuries, and “those 11 players played their hearts out and never gave up,” Gage said.
“We lost 9-5, but we played very well against a very strong Parksville team. They are leading Tier 2 and here we are going toe-to-toe with them with 11 skaters.”
All told, the Eagles finished the weekend in fourth place, with three wins and three losses.
Gage stated that he would love to recognize some of the players specifically, but “that would be unfair because every single player, coach, trainer, parent contributed to an awesome weekend of hockey,” adding that he told the team after the final game he’s “really proud of them.”
“They are starting to have success and with success comes increased expectations. The word is out on the street, the North Island Bantam Eagles are starting to turn some heads and they’re beating some good teams.”