PORT HARDY—One day after celebrating his 16th birthday, Darryl Coon helped his North Island Eagles midget hockey teammates celebrate a 3-2 win over Nanaimo by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period of the teams’ Vancouver Island Hockey League game Saturday at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.
The Eagles (1-1 in Division 3 play) never trailed in the contest. But they didn’t close out the visitors until Tyren Dustin threaded a pass from the corner between two defenders to Coon, who snapped a quick wrist shot from the slot past Clippers goalie Zack Zitek at 6:06 of the third period.
Zack Cameron, an affiliate player in his second game with the midgets, and Malcolm Browne also scored in the victory. Drake Baron got the win in goal.
The teams took a 2-2 tie into the mid-game ice cleaning intermission, and only the strong play of Zitek preserved the score as the Eagles took multiple shots at the net before Coon broke through with some help from his mates.
“David (Shaw) knocked down a pass to keep the puck in at the blue line,” said Coon. “Tyren walked it into the corner and had his head up and saw me open. When he got it to me, I just had to try to find a good shot. Luckily, it went in.”
The goal came just eight seconds after Nanaimo successfully killed a penalty, but the play was essentially a continuation of the Eagles’ power play, one of many on an afternoon in which the Clippers were whistled for 28 penalty minutes and a game misconduct. Cameron’s goal, which gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead at 6:11 of the first, and Browne’s rebound shot off the crossbar, which made it 2-1 at 7:08 of the second, both came with the man advantage.
But comparison, the host club took just seven minors for 14 minutes in the box.
“The guys played a very well-disciplined game,” Eagles head coach Dan Slater said. “Our third line played very well, and Drake kept us in it. He made some key saves.”
Baron faced most of his adversity in the first period and a half. Following intermission, the combination of Nanaimo’s penalty woes and the Eagles’ dominant forecheck kept play largely in the Clippers’ zone.
Indeed, the visitors were unable to pull Zitek for an extra attacker because the midgets kept the puck inside the Nanaimo blue line over the final minute-and-a-half of play.
“At intermission, we talked about not just finishing strong, but about making good choices,” assistant coach D’arcy Deacon said. “About winning battles, being first to the puck and not taking bad penalties. Because in a close game like this one, there’s a lot to lose by making bad choices.”
Dustin finished with two assists in the win, and Thomas Coon and Tyson Cadwallader added helpers. The midgets hit the road this weekend in further league play.