PORT McNEILL—The North Island Eagles midget rep hockey team had the momentum going its way Saturday in the opening round of the Vancouver Island Hockey League Tier 3 playoffs.
Problem was, that momentum lasted only 23 seconds.
The Juan de Fuca Grizzlies took advantage of a lull in the host team’s play to score five straight second-period goals and went on to a 10-3 win over the Eagles at Chilton Regional Arena.
The midgets’ season now hinges on a single game, Saturday at Kerry Park.
“The boys know what they need to do,” co-coach Phil Lue said. “We can play better than this; we’ve proven it. They just need to stay positive and leave it all on the ice next week.”
The top two finishers in the three-team North Island round-robin tourney advance to the Island semi-finals against the top two finishers from the South. The Eagles face Kerry Park in a must-win situation, then will have to wait for the result of Sunday’s Juan de Fuca-Kerry Park matchup to see if they’ll move on.
They were in a strong position early in the second period of Saturday’s playoff opener. The two squads played evenly in the first period, though the Grizzlies held a 2-0 lead thanks to some solid goaltending and missed opportunities by the Eagles.
But Robert Cahill, working a vigorous backcheck, poked the puck loose near his own blue line and raced in for a breakaway goal that made it 2-1 at 4:35 of the second.
That pumped up the crowd and the Eagles bench, but Juan de Fuca’s Tim Hardy silenced them when he rifled an unassisted slap shot from the top of the circle past goalie Stevyn Ruel at 4:58 to make it 3-1.
The momentum then swung dramatically to the visitors, who kept constant pressure in the Eagles’ zone and rattled off four more goals to take a 7-1 lead into the third period.
“We got off our game and didn’t execute at all,” said Lue. “When the guys get down a couple of goals, sometimes they start looking for someone to blame, and their whole game went down.”
Cahill scored a second goal early in the third, and Chad Bell raced in to fire home a shorthanded score from a steep angle to make it 8-3 with 14:11 left to play. But the game turned chippy, and the Eagles amassed seven of their 15 penalties in the third period to blunt any additional comeback.
Lue said their were strengths to build on — Cahill’s effort and a large number of blocked shots by defenders in front of Ruel and fellow goalie Troy Cadwell, who came on in the second period.
“The boys will learn from this game and they’ll put it behind them,” he said. “We know we can do better.”