What goes into an undefeated season?
The U15 North Island Eagles finished the regular season with a 9-0-1 record in the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association’s Tier 3 division, and head coach Al Rushton says it’s all due to believing in themselves and working together as team.
“The kids bought in to the system, and I think the real turning point of the season was when we went down island and played in a Tier 1 tournament November long weekend in Comox,” he said, noting that the team finished the tournament in second place, only losing in the final to a tough Tier 1 Peninsula team. “Ever since then, we’ve just taken over.”
The Eagles put in the hard work all season in practice, which translated to success during games. Every line has contributed to the scoreboard, and they’ve also had some very solid defensive play from their backend and two goaltenders, Lucas Handley and Matt Mercer.
Rylan Krawietz is the captain, and he’s been a beast all year, says Rushton, but added that everybody on the team has “really stepped up and started believing in themselves after that Tier 1 tournament. They’re just doing all the little things like battling for the puck, and we just outwork all the other teams. The kids are truly buying in to what we preach, which is eat healthy, get a good sleep, come ready to play, and don’t take a shift off.”
Brandon Cheetham has been helping Rushton coach this season. “He’s been awesome with the kids, and it’s actually just the two of us as we were the only ones that signed up to coach,” he added.
The toughest competition they’ve had to face in league play was the Kerry Park Islanders, who were the only team to tie the Eagles.
“We were down 4-1 at half, and we ended up coming back and tying them, it just goes to show that they’re a very good team,” Rushton said of the 5-5 game in Kerry Park that was played on Dec. 19.
Rushton added they actually defeated the Islanders 10-4 earlier in the season at home on Nov. 6, and also beat them in the goals for and against.
As for playoffs and the BC Championships, Rushton said he knows it’s going to be a battle, “but as long as the kids come to play we can compete with anybody and we will be just fine. The kids really believe in themselves, they’re a great group who get along, every one of them is super close, and I haven’t heard an argument all year.”
He added he wanted to say a big thank you to all the parents who battled through the bad weather this winter and also helped ensure everyone followed COVID-19 protocols.