PORT McNEILL — Any team’s reaction to a tie game in hockey is dependent on how it arrived at that result.
Unfortunately for the North Island Eagles midgets, they were the ones muttering and shaking their heads while the opposing Saanich Braves shared congratulations after the rivals skated to a 4-4 tie Saturday in their final Vancouver Island Hockey League placement game at Chilton Regional Arena.
“A tie always feels like a loss when you give up a late lead,” Eagles assistant coach Clint Cadwallader said.
The Eagles had taken a 4-3 lead with 2:06 left to play on a wrist shot by Ethan Shaw from the right circle.
But the visitors pulled goalie Tynan Sweeney on a faceoff in the North Island zone with 1:09 to play and Tom Scinocca punched home the tying goal on a rebound with 34.5 seconds to go.
“Up to this point, that’s probably the hardest challenge we’ve faced,” assistant coach Phil Lue said after the midgets slipped to 4-0-1 in tiering round games. “The guys competed well. There’s still some small things to work on. Having a game like this will be good for them in the long run.”
Head coach Rob Brittain said the Eagles were hurt by their penalty killing, though the main problem seemed to be how often they were in that position.
The Eagles successfully killed six of seven penalties, and opened scoring in the first period on a shorthanded goal by Eric Kennelly. But Saanich tied the game 3-3 on an extra-man goal and forced the final tie with a 6-on-5 advantage when North Island was unable to clear the puck from its zone in the 35 seconds between the Braves pulling their goalie and netting their fourth goal.
Brittain and the other coaches felt the Eagles carried the play when the teams were at even strength, but repeatedly helped the visitors with their trips to the box. Saanich, meanwhile allowed four power-play opportunities to the hosts.
Kennelly’s goal was the only score in the first period, and the slender lead carried into ice cleaning midway through the second period. Shortly after the teams emerged from their locker rooms, Saanich took its only lead at 2-1 with back-to-back goals less than three minutes apart.
But Chad Bell tied it for the Eagles off an assist from Shaw with 1:06 left in the second, and Robert Cahill made it 3-2 in the opening minute of the third on a rebound shot that referees delayed calling until the pileup in the crease was sorted out and they spotted the puck under Sweeney behind the goal line.
Just two minutes later, however, the Braves knotted it at 3-all, setting up the wild finish.
Shaw’s go-ahead score was set up when Tyson Cadwallader’s carried the puck into the Saanich zone and, after being stopped by a defender, tied up the opposing player long enough that Shaw was able to swoop in and collect the loose puck for a free shot.