PORT HARDY—The North Island midget reps battled Victoria in a pair of league games last weekend.
The first game, Saturday at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena in Port Hardy, saw the visitors dominant, beating the home side 5-1 in an ill-tempered affair.
Penalties were the scourge of the local team, which racked up 46 penalty minutes.
The first period was closely contested with both sides creating chances, but Victoria struck first, midway through the period, and went on to double its lead on a power play in the dying seconds of the period.
That lead was stretched to three with 14:02 left in the second, Victoria again taking advantage of a penalty. The Eagles surged forward before the ice-cleaning break and were unlucky not to put one on the board before the whistle but the visitors were able to hold on to their clean sheet.
The teams came back on the ice for the remainder of the second with tempers and frustration beginning to show. When Victoria scored its fourth, once more on a power play, and a vocal visitors bench jeered the home side, the red mist descending was clear to see.
The home side claimed one back in short order, Eric Kennelly showing a nice piece of skill to skip past two defenders and create enough space for a bullet of a shot from six feet inside the Victoria zone.
The third period saw frustrations rise to boiling point as the home side were reduced to firing in hopeful long-range shots while both sides took any and every opportunity to look for hits.
The visitors sealed the win with a fifth goal midway through the period. With a comeback out of sight and the grudges mounting up, it wasn’t a complete surprise when a slugfest broke out in the dying minutes, with at least seven players on the ice taking the opportunity to settle scores.
Sunday saw a very different game. The Eagles, playing with more purpose and confidence, kept the visitors on the back foot throughout and earned a comfortable 7-3 win.
Kennelly opened the scoring for the side through a Darryl Coon assist in the first.
Victoria pulled one back before Chad Bell restored the home side’s lead, to take a 2-1 advantage into the second period.
The second period was all Eagles, with Ethan Shaw and Tyson Cadwallader adding their names to the scoresheet before Bell put back a Kennelly shot on a power play to double his tally and give the home side a 5-1 lead after the second.
The third period saw a minor rally by the visitors, who scored twice in the early minutes and set the stage for a compelling final spell.
Alternate Eagles goalie Alex Howard was impressive between the pipes, stopping several breakaway attempts from the visitors and saving a couple of point-blank efforts on penalties to maintain the home advantage.
The Eagles had a goal disallowed after Bell was released early from the penalty box due to some confusion on the minutes to be served. Since Bell participated in the goal, officials disallowed the strike and returned him to the box.
Bell got the last word however, earning his hat trick after Kennelly extended the Eagles’ lead, rounding out a deserved 7-3 victory for the home side.
Coach Mike Bell said after the game that he was “very happy with the result. It was one of the best all-round games we’ve had.”
The coach wasn’t present for Saturday’s game, his assistant coach Rob Brittain in his stead, but said, “I think there was a bit of frustration yesterday so I told them today to just stick to the plan. If a hit’s there, take it. But don’t go looking for one: you need to have the puck to score.”
Coach Bell commended the players on their hard work and intensity and felt his side was “in control the whole game.”
The Eagles have a break this weekend, with other sides playing make-up games prior to the playoff schedule being drafted.