PORT HARDY—Brady Ranger scored his first rep hockey goal Saturday, touching off a brief celebration with the young, first-year peewee skater at its centre during the North Island Eagles’ tiering game against visiting Cowichan Valley.
That stood as the biggest highlight for the hosts in an 11-2 loss to the Capitals, another contest of incremental improvements for a club whose fortunes should soon take a positive turn.
The peewees fell to 0-5 in tiering games, which are used to gauge each program’s competitive level and slot them into an appropriate division for league play, which will begin the weekend of Oct. 26-27.
The young Eagles, who have only four returning players with any experience at this level, will likely slot into the lower competitive tier, which should allow them to continue developing against teams in a similar situation and eventually lead to wins on the scoreboard.
Most of the squad is made up of players moving up from the atom level, or into rep hockey for the first time.
Both of those were the case for Ranger when he scored to start the second half Saturday at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.
Cowichan Valley had already run off to a 7-0 lead at the ice-cleaning break before Ranger gathered a pass from Devin White in the slot and spun to deliver a shot past one defender and under partially screened goalie Matthew Simpson at 11:21 of the second period.
After a moment’s pause to be sure the referee had signalled the goal, Ranger threw both arms into the air and spun, wide-eyed, to seek his teammates.
The goal ushered in the team’s best stretch of play on the afternoon. First-year goalie Michael McLaughlin kept Cowichan off the board for a 10-minute stretch before the visitors slipped home two quick goals in the final two minutes of the period.
The Eagles’ Kaisha Laird answered with a goal in the closing seconds of the second from the same spot as Ranger’s shot. But the puck bounced in and out of the net so fast, and Laird skated to the bench so casually, that it was unclear to many whether it had gone in at all. Finally, the crowd erupted in cheers when it saw the officials bring the ensuing face-off out to centre ice.