PORT McNEILL—North Island Eagles midget coach Rob Brittain has always liked the makeup of his team. And it’s even better when the entire team is suited up.
Forward Robert Cahill returned from a three-game absence to score the game’s first two goals and captain Robbie Heavenor returned to the blue line following a lengthy illness as the Eagles rolled to a 5-3 Vancouver Island Hockey League win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Saturday at Chilton Regional Arena.
It was the final home game of the regular season for the midgets, who will wrap up Division 3 league play with road games the next two weeks before the playoff schedule is set.
“They jumped out pretty well,” Brittain said after his squad rolled to a 4-0 lead and dominated most of the game before the Bulldogs closed the gap with a pair of late goals. “Some of the guys were a little heavy, though. One of ’em told me he gained eight pounds over the holidays.”
So, a final conditioning tune-up may be in order before the postseason. Heavenor, who has finally gained back the nearly 15 pounds he lost during a bout with mononucleosis, was a welcome addition on defence even if he still needs to build muscle strength.
And Cahill, who missed one game to suspension and two more to a family vacation, added some punch on offence as the midgets kicked off 2012 with a win.
He scored the first goal by skating in alone and shooting from the slot after teammate Chad Bell had poked free an Alberni clearing attempt with 3:31 left in first period. Cahill made it 2-0 in the second after the rebound of an Ethan Shaw backhand kicked right to his stick and he sent it back in.
That score held until the mid-game ice cleaning, when Brittain switched goalie Stevyn Ruel for Troy Cadwell
Shaw and Tyson Cadwallader added goals following intermission to push the lead to 4-0.
Alberni got on the board with a redirect of a point shot on the power play in the final minute of the second, and closed to 4-2 on Liam Mcleod’s wrist shot from low in the circle after he beat the Eagles’ defence on the corner.
But the Eagles continued to limit the visitors’ opportunities by controlling play, and took a 5-2 lead when Malcolm Richards fed Eric Kennelly in the slot for a one-timer with 1:21 left.
“The whole team, I thought, did really well,” said Brittain. “We’ve been working on our breakout and they did a great job with that. And our penalty kill was good — which we needed.”
Brittain added that discipline will be a point of focus going into the final weeks of the season, so that the midgets can avoid those shorthanded situations.
“Overall, we’ve got to work on our power play a little bit, and just fine-tune the special teams play in general. But the guys are playing well right now.”