PORT HARDY—Even without some of their top scoring threats, the Port McNeill Mustangs are proving hard to beat in the 2011-12 North Island Commercial Hockey League season.
Paced by a lineup constructed in large part by current and recently converted defencemen, the Mustangs out dueled the Port Hardy Bulls 5-2 Friday at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.
With a pair of their front-line forwards back in the lineup Sunday in Port McNeill, the Mustangs (8-0-2) remained unbeaten by forging a 2-2 tie in a rematch against the Bulls.
John Prachnau, normally a stay-at-home defencemen, put the Mustangs on the board Friday after the Bulls had taken an early 1-0 lead.
Glenn Moore, who shifted from defence to forward this season, got the next goal and blueliner Ryan Rushton netted the game-winner for the Mustangs, who were without forwards Chris Dutcyvich, John Murgatroyd and Bill Rushton.
“Not bad for missing our guns,” said defencemen Clint Cadwallader, who recently rejoined the squad after taking a couple seasons off.
Forwards Al Rushton and Jarvis Walsh capped the scoring Friday as the Mustangs pulled away late.
Chad Mackenzie and newcomer Dylan Dirom scored for the Bulls, who were never allowed an odd-man rush as the Mustangs focused on a defensive approach in front of goalie Bob Wells.
“That was probably our best defensive game,” said Reed Allen, a former forward in his junior years.
Allen had been playing defence for the Mustangs before being forced back to the wing Friday.
On Sunday, Dutcyvich and Bill Rushton — a few teeth lighter after a mishap in the recent 45-over Island Cup tourney in Victoria — were back in the lineup for the Mustangs.
The Bulls put up perhaps their strongest showing of the season and led 2-1 on Quinn Mellow’s unassisted wrist shot from the circle with 5:10 left to play.
That seemed to light a fire under the Mustangs, who tied it when Dutcyvich redirected Ryan Rushton’s point shot on a power play with 3 minutes remaining.
The Mustangs kept the Bulls pinned
in their own end and had numerous opportunities the rest of the way, but Port Hardy goalie Barry Wilson and his mates preserved the tie.
Islanders 4, Warriors 1
No scoring details were available from Friday’s game in Port Alice, won by the host Neucel Islanders.