PORT McNEILL—As the final buzzer sounded on Sunday’s atom development hockey game at Chilton Arena, the Campbell River Tyees bolted from their bench and skated with whoops a cheers to surround goalie Jared McAneeley.
At the other end of the ice, the North Island Eagles skated slowly and silently, heads bowed, to their own net.
The moment gave the impression Campbell River had beaten the Eagles, though that was not the case.
“Another tie that felt like a loss,” Eagles coach Marty Gage said after the atoms let leads of 4-0 and 5-1 slip away in a 5-5 tie against the Tyees.
The game followed what has become a troubling pattern for the young atoms. The team typically comes out of the gate strong and builds early leads, but struggles to hang on.
In the opening game of the teams’ weekend doubleheader Saturday, the Eagles jumped ahead 2-0 but 6-3 loss when the Tyees scored the final three goals of the game.
“It was something I even said in an email to all the parents, asking for their help with ideas how to get the kids to keep their focus for the whole game,” said Gage. “They just need to show a little more heart.”
Clayton Bono, Mathew Saunders and Benton Browne each tallied first-period goals and Bono pushed the Eagles’ lead to 4-0 with another score early in the second period.
Campbell River finally got on the scoreboard with a tally midway through the second, but Bono responded just 25 seconds later by converting a nifty crossing pass from Browne and restoring the margin at 5-1.
But the Tyees needed less than a minute to answer back with their second goal on a breakaway, and the game shifted noticeably from the Campbell River zone to the Eagles’.
The Tyees pulled to 5-3 with a goal late in the second, then tied it with a pair of power-play goals in the third — the last one with just 1:05 remaining — as the Eagles failed to recapture the offensive punch they exhibited in the first 20 minutes.
“We try to teach them the way to respond when the other team gets a goal,” said Gage. “You go up to your goalie, tap their pads, then line up for the faceoff and get after it.”
For their part, the atoms did have one final push left after the tying goal. Bono pushed the puck up the right wing and into the zone before placing a pass right on the tape of Saunders. But Saunders’ shot from the low slot was stopped and covered by McAneeley, and the Tyees were able to play dump and chase over the final seconds.
On Saturday, goals from Browne and Bono staked the atoms to a 2-0 first-period lead. The visitors scored three straight times over the first and second periods to knot the game 3-3. But Campbell River scored once more in the second and added two insurance goals to pull away in the third.
The Eagles will take a short break for Christmas, then resume play in the Comox Holiday Tournament beginning Dec. 27.
“We’ll get them back together and get some swagger on in Comox,” Gage said.