PORT ALICE—Once they settled down and focussed on the game at hand, the North Island Eagles midgets started to look like a team with its eye on the upcoming Vancouver Island Hockey League playoffs.
Alex Scott, David Shaw and Brett Walker each scored goals after intermission and goalie Troy Cadwell shut the door as the Eagles rallied from behind for a 5-3 win over the Saanich Braves at Doug Bondue Arena.
The finish was a far cry from the first period-and-a-half, when the Eagles racked up five minor penalties and a game misconduct, gave up a pair of power-play goals to the visitors and limped into the locker room trailing 3-2.
So, was it an interesting discussion in the room during that break?
“Yes. Yes, it was,” assistant coach D’Arcy Deacon said with a small smile. “In reality, the kids were (complaining) about the reffing. We told them, ‘Hey, if you want to take the game out of your own hands and put it on them, that’s your choice. You’ve got half a game left, and it’s up to you to decide if you want it.’”
Apparently the Eagles did. They not only took the game out of the hands of the officials — notching a single penalty over the final 30 minutes — but they took it away from Saanich as well.
Scott tied it when he capped an extended forecheck in the Braves’ zone with a shot from the slot at 15:14 of the second period; Shaw rifled a wrist shot from the point for the game-winner at 2:15 of the third; and Walker added an insurance goal at 7:30 after Coltton Slater kept the puck in the zone with a steal and fed him in the slot.
“When you quit trying to take the other guy’s head off and worry more about cycling the puck, all of a sudden you’re making plays,” said Deacon. “We also said to Troy, ‘You need to shut the door.’ And he make a couple of key saves that kept us in it.”
Saanich opened the scoring at 8:10 of the opening period, on their first power-play chance. The Eagles tied it on their own power play — their only man-advantage chance before the break, when Tyren Dustin converted the rebound of a Walker shot with 42 seconds left in the period. The hosts actually went up 2-1 when Tyson Cadwallader’s low-speed shot from the circle trickled under goaltender Blake Sigwin with seven seconds left, but the momentum was short-lived.
Saanich tied it at 5:00 of the second on an individual-effort goal by Nate Harmsworth, who carried a defender through the zone before beating Cadwell from the low slot, and moved ahead 3-2 on their second power-play tally, a point-blank rebound shot by Mitchell Hoff, at 10:17.
The midgets wrap up their regular season at Nanaimo this weekend, then set their sights on the Tier 3 playoffs.
“It started for us this week in practice,” said Deacon. “We went in with a high-end coaching plan, so our practice was high-tempo, high-paced and serious. The playoffs started for us (last) Tuesday.”