The North Island Bantam Eagles battled through injuries and a questionable goal to win their first game of the season against the visiting Nanaimo Clippers.
The Tier 2 league game went down Saturday afternoon at the Chilton Regional Arena, and you could tell during the warmup that the Eagles were more than ready to make a statement and show the division who they really are.
The game was a back-and-forth fight right from the drop of the puck, with both teams battling against the boards and trying to gain the zone.
The Eagles got on the scoreboard first at 5:15, thanks to a hard point shot through traffic from David Klatt, which was assisted by Ethan Bono.
The Clippers would answer back minutes later with a goal of their own, tying it up 1-1 before the end of the first period, and then scoring again in the second period to take the lead.
The Eagles didn’t lay down and quit in the face of adversity. Tristan Mardell got the pass from Joey Grant and broke in on an offensive rush, letting go a wrist shot from the side of the net with 1:41 left to tie it up 2-2.
The Eagles started to really bring the offence in the third period, with captain Tynan Klein-Beekman finding the twine off a big slap shot from the point at 18:27 to take the lead back 3-2.
The Clippers returned the favour, scoring at 13:24 and then again at 7:50 to take a 4-3 lead.
That was when the Eagles took off down the ice, with Keenan Saunders getting the puck from Bono and skating down towards the net. Saunders blasted a crazy shot from an almost impossible angle on the goal line, richocheting the puck off the Clippers’ goalie and into the net.
The hometown crowd erupted as the Eagles celebrated with Saunders for clinching the game tying goal.
With time winding down, Klein-Beekman got the pass from Mannie Browne and again let off an absolute blast from the point, firing the puck past the Clippers’ goalie, giving the Eagles the lead back.
The Clipper pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, but Grant stole the puck at the blueline and lofted it down the ice into the empty net with 38 seconds left, officially giving the Eagles a hard-fought 6-4 victory.
Coach Ryan Handley said he felt the Eagles started the game well and had “some good zone time… We had a good physical game and went to the net with purpose.”
He added the Clippers are a “quick transition team and I thought we really took notice of that – our weak side winger really picked up their high slot guy.”
Handley had nothing but praise for how team captain Klein-Beekman took over the game in the second half. “He really stepped up and scored a couple huge goals for us.”
All told, Handley felt it was a “very solid win and a great feeling for the team going into the Christmas break.”
The Eagles will be back in action Jan. 13 in Port Alice at the Doug Bondue Arena, looking for their second big victory of the season.