North Island Eagles bantam Tanner Roberts stays with the puck after being tripped up on a rush during Saturday's Division 3 hockey win over Victoria Saturday in Port McNeill.

First league win no fluke for bantams

Back-to-back wins shows North Island Eagles bantams are hitting form.

PORT McNEILL—The North Island Eagles bantam rep hockey teams was apparently energized by collecting its first Vancouver Island Hockey League win of the season Saturday at Chilton Regional Arena.

The next day, the Eagles did it again.

Nyck Ruel enjoyed a strong game in goal and David Charlie netted the game-winner by bouncing a shot off a Victoria defender as the bantams topped the visiting Hawks 4-2 in a Division 3 contest Saturday.

The next morning, Cameron Grant netted a hat trick and Emma Mitchell added a pair of goals as the Eagles romped to a 7-1 exhibition win in a rematch between the teams.

“I was a little worried,” Eagles coach Boni Sharpe said of Sunday’s series finale. “I didn’t want to make it look like (Saturday’s win) was an accident.”

There was nothing fluky about the weekend sweep. With Ruel stepping up for some key saves in the early going, the Eagles controlled play in Saturday’s contest, riding goals by Kenton Browne in the first period and Jake Grinnell in the second to a 2-0 lead at the mid-game ice cleaning break.

Moments after the teams returned to the ice, Charlie collected a loose puck in the neutral zone, avoided a check while maintaining possession through the right circle, then launched a wrist shot that caromed off a Victoria defender parked in front of the crease and into the net for a 3-0 lead.

Nathan Bath finally put the Hawks on the scoreboard at 13:19 of the second, and drew Victoria within a goal with a second score at 9:56 of the second.

But the bantams put it away when defenseman Josh Walkus carried the puck into the Hawks’ zone along the right boards and sent a backhand pass through the crease to Tanner Roberts, who one-timed the puck home from the bottom of the right circle with 7:34 to play.

“I think, finally, all the hard practices paid off,” Sharpe said of the win, which gives her squad a 1-4-1 record in league play. “Honestly, this team is probably the closest to us in our own division, so we were hoping for a good result. Hopefully, we’ll go into our next games remembering what it feels like to win.”

The bantams certainly remembered the next day.

Grant’s three goals came in an 8 ½-minute stretch of the second period, and he was denied a natural hat trick because Bath scored his third goal of the weekend — and the Hawks’ only score of the game, in the middle of that run.

But that was all Victoria would muster against goalie Nigel Walkus and the Eagles, who got back-to-back goals from Mitchell 29 seconds apart late in the second and a score from Grinnell 14 seconds into the third to make it 7-1.

Sean Pineda opened scoring with 48 seconds left in the first period, meaning that the game’s eight goals all came within a 20-minute span midway through the contest.

The Eagles play a pair of games in Port Hardy this weekend against Sooke, Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m. Both are benefits for the annual Gazette Hamper Fund; fans are encouraged to bring a donation of a toy or non-perishable food item for collection in a bin that will be placed at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.

 

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