It’s been quite the season for the North Island Bantam Eagles.
After going undefeated in preseason tiering, the Eagles qualified for Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association’s Tier 2 division, where they finished with a stellar 11-1 record, earning the league banner, before dropping back down to Tier 3 for playoffs.
Playoffs have been no different for the high-scoring bantams, as they cruised to dominate wins over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, the Oceanside Generals, and the Peninsula Eagles.
After being scheduled for a best-of-three finals against the very tough Sooke Thunderbirds (who went 11-1 in the Tier 3 division), the Eagles ended up travelling all the way to just about the end of the island for the first game of the series on Saturday, Feb. 22.
It was definitely a physical game right from the first whistle, but the Eagles were ready and ended up scoring three unanswered goals over the first two periods, thanks to captain William Grant (x2) and Landon Turgeon. Assists on the plays went to Tye Morash (x2) and Zach Spafford.
The Thunderbirds weren’t ready to quit just yet, and they came roaring back in the third with three goals of their own courtesy of Grady Sluggett (x2) and Gracie Szadkowski, but the Eagles refused to break and added two more helpers from Spafford and Morash (assists going to Grant and Jack Barrett) to skate away with a big 5-3 victory.
“The team travelled the length of the island knowing nothing would be handed to them,” said assistant coach Chad Mackenzie. “Sooke has had a very successful season and post season. They are a disciplined team with plenty of scoring potential and a goaltender that challenges the best shooters.”
Mackenzie noted the Eagles broke open the scoring by using their deadly power play skills, “and it proved effective twice more to get the lead… We definitely have to respect our opponent’s abilities and make some adjustments if we want to have more success. There is no room to let our opponents think they have a chance. They are aggressively coached and will be pushed to do whatever it takes to try and take the series.”
He stated the team is looking forward to next weekend’s challenge, with the rematch going down on Saturday, Feb. 29 at 12:45 p.m. at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena in Port Hardy.
“The team would appreciate a big show of support,” Mackenzie added. “The bantam Eagles have the opportunity to show how strong we North Islanders are, and the fans can show how proud they are of them. Let’s make some noise!”