PORT HARDY—The North Island Eagles midget hockey team finished strong in a 4-1 win over Victoria at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena Saturday.
That momentum did not carry over into the following day.
The Nanaimo Clippers jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first 12 minutes of play Sunday and made it stand up for a 5-2 win over the Eagles, who finished with a split of their weekend doubleheader.
“We just can’t seem to play two good games back-to-back,” midget head coach Dan Slater said. “We got off to a slow start, and had a slower finish (Sunday). They just outskated us and beat us to the puck.”
The Tier 3 Eagles finished their five-game placement schedule with a 3-2 record, and will wait to find out which division they’ll be slotted in for league play, which begins the weekend of Oct. 26-27.
Eagles 4, Victoria 1
Trailing 1-0 midway through Saturday’s game, the midgets came out of intermission blazing. Brett Walker and Riley Heemels scored in the last 6:34 of the second period as the Eagles took the lead for good, and Thomas Coon added an insurance score at 16:39 of the third. Darryl Coon capped the scoring with 31 seconds to play.
At the other end, the team’s defence, backed by goalies Drake Baron and Troy Cadwell, proved impervious after the Ice Hawks’ Gord Roberts scored his team’s only goal at 13:17 of the opening period.
Walker, Heemels, Coltton Slater, Malcolme Browne and Tyren Dustin each notched assists in the win.
Nanaimo 5, Eagles 2
A pair of former Eagles returned to the North Island with their new team and left with a win, after the early hole proved too much for the hosts to climb out of.
Forward Tyler Sexton, formerly of Port Alice, and defenseman Cole Johnson, who began his skating career in Port McNeill, both skated as Nanaimo scored on three of their first four shots of the game.
Baron came off the bench to spell Cadwell in net and found himself with little to do for the next period, as the Eagles turned the momentum and established an effective forecheck in the Clippers’ zone.
Heemels’ power play slap shot from the high slot brought the Eagles to 3-1 at 13:14 of the first period, and Malcolm Browne netted another long blast from the point with the teams skating 4-on-4 to make it 3-2 at 16:09 of the second.
But while Nanaimo rarely set up camp in the Eagles’ zone for any length of time, they made the most of open-ice opportunities on the breakout.
A 2-on-1 rush early in the third period opened the door for a rebound goal by Nick Hotchkiss, who found the open right side of the net after Baron slid to his left to stop the initial shot. Then, with 8:48 to play, Nanaimo got the clincher following some slick passing on a 3-on-2 break, Sexton serving up the assist with a feed across the crease that left teammate Brandon Parker an opening behind Baron.
“We think our guys did a good job of coming back (from 3-0),” assistant coach D’Arcy Deacon said. “But when you get pushing hard to do that, you leave yourself open for the odd-man rush the other way. And Nanaimo capitalized. Those weren’t cheap scores either; they were beautiful goals.”
Browne and Darryl Coon each collected assists for the Eagles in the loss.