PORT HARDY — An inability to put pucks in the net was a familiar nemesis for the North Island Eagles midget hockey team.
The inability to keep them out of their own net was something new.
Despite a dominant forecheck that gave the Eagles a huge advantage in shots on goal, it was the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies who repeatedly cashed in on their own chances Sunday in a 6-3 victory that eliminated the Eagles from the Vancouver Island Hockey League Tier 3 playoffs.
“We probably had a three-to-one edge on them in chances — good, quality scoring chances,” midget coach John Murgatroyd said. “But theirs found the net. It was a tough way for them to go out.”
The visitors potted two quick goals in the first 2:07 of the game, quieting a large home crowd and stunning an Eagles team that came in on a 5-0-1 roll through its previous six games.
The midgets (20-5-3) spent the rest of the period working in the Juan de Fuca zone, firing shot after shot at goalie Eric Palliser, but had only a lone goal by Ethan Shaw to show for it heading into the first intermission.
Whatever momentum the Eagles had was quickly wiped away as the Grizzlies started the second period the same way they began the first, with two quick tallies in the first 2:30 to push their lead to 4-1.
The Eagles replaced goalie Lucas Robertson with Stevyn Ruel, but he was victimized less than a minute and a half later, and Murgatroyd took the rare step of using his time out in the early minutes of the second period.
Robertson re-entered the game and, after watching his teammates pound away at the other end for several minutes, surrendered one last score on a Juan de Fuca breakaway at 8:48 of the second.
The Grizzlies were kept off the board over the final 31-plus minutes, but the Eagles’ futility on offence continued until Eric Kennelly punched in back-to-back goals 24 seconds apart late in the third to provide the final margin.
Robert Cahill and Lucas Woo had assists in the loss.
“Some of these guys are going to have a future in this game,” said Murgatroyd, whose club will continue to practice in preparation for a spring break tournament in Port Alberni. “But this was probably an eye-opener for them. The difference between elite hockey players and good hockey players is you’ve got to come out to compete consistently. Every game.”