PORT McNEILL — Among the many lessons its coaching staff will impart this season, the most important for the North Island Eagles rep peewees might be the lesson of patience.
The peewees kicked off the 2011-12 regular season with a pair of home games last weekend and, despite controlling play for extended stretches of both games, came away on the wrong end of 2-1 and 4-2 losses to Peninsula in Vancouver Island Hockey League play at Chilton Regional Arena.
“We’re seeing improvement in a lot of kids,” peewee coach Brian Heller said. “We’re just not seeing that turning into wins yet. But it’s early in the year.”
Another solid game in goal by Nyck Ruel Saturday was wasted Saturday when the peewees simply could not put a puck in the net.
Peninsula opened scoring on a spinning, power-play shot from the slot after a faceoff to Ruel’s left with just two seconds remaining in the first period, then pushed the lead to 2-0 early in the second on a rebound shot when defenders were unable to clear the puck from the crease.
Sean Pineda put the Eagles on the board with a power-play rebound tally of Kenton Browne’s shot from the wing at 6:58 of the second period, but that was all the North Island team could manage despite several quality chances down the stretch.
In Sunday’s rematch, the teams played a scoreless opening period but Peninsula scored off the second-period faceoff for a 1-0 lead. Another power-play tally at 15:00 of the second made it 2-0, but BreeAnna Henderson provided the Eagles with a highlight with a goal on her own rebound at 18:49. Her first career goal as a peewee, assisted by Taylor Ranger, cut the Peninsula lead to 2-1 and it looked like another close finish was in the offing.
But Peninsula pushed ahead 3-1 when Tanner Wort skated unmolested through several defenders to lift a shot top shelf with just 35 seconds left in the period, and made it 4-1 in the opening moments of the third when Elijah Bunting capped a hat trick with a breakaway goal.
Browne got the host peewees within 4-2 on his own breakaway goal just one minute later, but the Eagles were unable to score again.
The peewees return to home play this weekend, taking on Nanaimo Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Port Hardy.