It was a bit of a rough road trip for the North Island Midget Eagles.
Fresh off back to back wins over the Peninsula Eagles at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena, the Eagles had a showdown on the weekend with their division rivals, the Tier 3 Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
The game turned out to a hard-hitting affair, with the Eagles going up 2-0 after the first period thanks to goals from Tyler Roper and Ryan Patterson (assists went to Mannie Brown x2, Tristan Mardell and Zach Noel).
The Bulldogs would get on the scoreboard in the second after Tanner Clydesdale converted at 15:03, assisted by Seth Price and Blake Moore.
Joey Grant would then find the back of the net for the Eagles at 7:04 of the third period to make it 3-1, but the Bulldogs came roaring back with two late goals courtesy of Colton Scott and Moore (assisted by Price and Clydesdale) to pull off a 3-3 tie.
After the game, head coach Ryan Handley noted the team was “without Gager, no Bray in the lineup, and we lost Patty to injury and Kai Cyr to a hit from behind. It was a gritty effort to say the least.”
While the Eagles had a 3-1 lead partway through the third, Handley felt some less than favourable calls went against them “and it kind of put us in a tough spot. To go in there missing two-thirds of our top line and then lose two more big pieces was testament to the effort everyone put in, some guys played minutes and roles they usually don’t and I’m super proud of their effort and commitment, it was a total team effort.”
Handley added the Bulldogs had a full lineup “and I think they were frustrated by our neutral zone attack as we had talked pre-game about playing a trap system and forcing them into the walls with no options — their three goals were bounces, two went off guys and in, and one was a broken play scramble. It was a measuring stick game for us and we left feeling confident that with a healthy team we can control them and play our way.”
The Eagles weren’t done playing hockey yet, as they had another game against the gritty Kerry Park Islanders the very next day, which they ultimately lost 5-3 in what can only be described as a wild, penalty-filled affair (Eagles three goals were scored by Mardell, Browne and Cyr).
“We looked tired and they were ready for us and we had a hard time adjusting for some reason,” said Handley. “From our net out we didn’t look ready to go. You can’t spot any team a four goal lead and then in the third period decide it’s time to play hockey — we brought ourselves down to their level which is dirty, chirpy, parking lot hockey and we can’t go there.”
Handley felt the team was “very undisciplined this weekend and it cost us three points, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask what we as individuals can do to be better. We talk about how we want to play before every game and then do the opposite, there are some that keep making the same mistakes over and over and that simply can’t happen. Were all the penalties justified? No, but don’t put the refs in a position to have to make a call — play smart, play hard, and play the right way. These kinds of things are good for a team once in awhile because it’s a reality check and now we need to regroup and get ready for Oceanside this weekend before the Christmas break.”
The Eagles currently sit in first place in the Tier 3 division with a 4-1-1 record, and will be playing against the Oceanside Generals Dec. 15 in Port Hardy.