The North Island Eagles Midget hockey team learned a valuable lesson after Saturday’s exhibition game against Nanaimo: stay out of the box. The Eagles ran into penalty trouble in that game, losing 7-6 after being up 5-2 at one point.
In Sunday’s league game a more settled side dominated the play.
The game began cagily, neither side willing to push too hard or concede. The Eagles eased into their game first, and kept mounting on the pressure in Nanaimo’s zone until, with eight minutes left in the period, Robby Heavenor put the home side on the scoreboard.
Ethan Shaw found the net from a tight angle to add another Eagles goal four minutes later, before doubling his tally on a power-play goal with two minutes left on the period clock.
The Clippers looked shaken as they took to the ice for the second period, with no player seemingly willing to drive forward or hold the puck for any length of time. A predatory Eagles side sensed it too, eager to attack and seeking out contact, and it was no real surprise when Jared Sinclair struck to put to home side ahead by four.
With fourteen left on the clock, two more goals thirty seconds apart from Heavenor and Eric Kennelly added to the tally and a home rout seemed on the cards.
To its credit, Nanaimo began to fight back and, although somewhat against the run of play, scored a quick pair of their own to go in to the locker room trailing 6-2 at the ice-cleaning break.
A more determined Nanaimo team took to the ice for the second half, but the Eagles carried their first half confidence with them and never looked likely to collapse. When temperatures rose on the ice, the players mostly kept their cool and skated off, and the attitude paid dividends.
Strong goaltending at each end kept the scores level until late in the second, when a string of penalties left Nanaimo shorthanded and an Eagles goal was all but inevitable. Shaw grabbed it and notched up his hat trick in the process.
The third period began with spells of Nanaimo pressure, but Eagles goalie Stevyn Ruel was equal to the task, repelling all the visitors could throw at him.
The scores remained unchanged for the first ten minutes, until Darryl Coon found the net for the Eagles on another Nanaimo penalty.
The Clippers continued to pressure in the final ten minutes, but their frustration was showing and penalty minutes blunted their momentum. At the buzzer the Eagles celebrated a deserved 8-2 victory.
Coach Mike Bell said he was pleased with the performance and said that the side learned from Saturdays game. “We had strong goaltending and we kept our heads, I was pleased they stayed out of the box.”
“The refs did a good job,” he continued. “Next game is against Sooke, hopefully we can take that forward and do the same next weekend.”
The midgets resume home play against Sooke with another doubleheader this weekend. The series kicks off with a 4:15 p.m. game Saturday in Port McNeill and wraps up with a 9 a.m. rematch Sunday in Port Hardy.