PORT ALICE — One period into Saturday’s game against the visiting Comox Chiefs, the North Island Eagles atom development team was leading 4-0 and appeared on its way to a laugher.
The laugh turned into a sigh of relief when Clayton Bono’s goal with 4:49 remaining in the third snapped a tie and allowed the atoms to escape with a 7-6 win in Vancouver Island Hockey League play.
The game served as a benefit for the Gazette’s Christmas Hamper Fund, and the visiting Comox players contributed toys to the table of donations in the arena lobby.
The atoms will continue to help the Hamper Fund this weekend with a pair of games in Port Hardy. They ask spectators to help them fill a hockey net with donations of toys or non-perishable food during Saturday’s 3 p.m. game against Saanich and at Sunday’s 9 a.m. rematch.
After digging a deep hole Saturday, the Braves climbed out quickly with a five-goal second period that left the teams tied 5-5 entering the third.
The Eagles’ Carson Strang took a crossing pass from Bono and buried a one-timer to restore the atoms lead at 6-5 with 9:10 left, but Comox responded just 18 seconds later to tie it and set up the wild finish.
Bono got the game-winner on a crossing feed from Strang.
Mathew Saunders and Bono scored two goals each, and Devin White and Ryan Patterson added scores in the victory.
Bono and Strang were top playmakers with three assists each. Saunders had two assists and Rhys Dutcyvich, Tianna Walkus, Benton Browne, Payton Laming, Luke Gage and Braden Walkus had one each.
Michael McLaughlin and Avary Miller shared duty in goal.