In what was probably one of the most emotionally charged, physical, and mental challenges so far this year, the North Island Bantam Eagles defeated the Powell River Kings with the Tier Three league banner on the line.
The Eagles travelled down island to Powell River last Saturday and they needed to win to not only clinch the banner, but to continue on with their perfect league play season.
According to coach Ryan Handley, “a lot was on the line. Powell River signed one of their top Dmen back from last year (who was playing in West Van all year), but through being released and recarded by Powell River, it really gave them a boost on the backend.”
Handley added there was not a lot of room out there on the ice, “and they really came at us hard. We had some guys really step up and play some big minutes.”
The game ended up scoreless after the first, and then with 3:44 left in the second period, William Grant drove to the net and chipped a shot towards the goal that bounced off the goalie and off Liam Norman and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
The game would remain tight and back and forth, but it was Eagles’ goaltender Griffin Handley who was the time and time again ready to close the door on a very determined Powell River team.
The Eagles ended up taking a late penalty with 2:08 to go in the third period, and Powell River pulled their goalie to go six on four while trying for the equalizer.
“Griff made some big stops for us and looked calm and focused – late in the game he made a couple key stops to keep us up,” said Handley, who added, “our defence did a great job letting him see pucks and clearing second chances.”
The Eagles cleared the puck down the ice with 30 seconds left, and it was captain David Klatt who raced past the Kings’ defenceman and shot the puck into the net to seal the deal with 26 seconds left, clinching the Tier Three league banner for the Eagles.
“They worked so hard for this game,” Handley said, who noted Powell River “is a solid team over there, but we went into their barn missing two key guys and still pulled out a gritty game like that. It’s a testament to their commitment and they deserve every positive thing that happens to them.”
Mathew Datos who was AP’d from the Port McNeil Bantam house team played his first game in four years for the Eagles and filled in very nicely on the bench. “We had Matty back with us in Atom Development and he really stepped up and gave us a hand and never looked out of place, he’s a big body and a smart player very happy to have him in the mix for us when he can.”
The Eagles will be back home Jan. 19 to aim for a perfect 10-0 season against the Juan De Fuca Grizzlies at 4:00 p.m. in Port McNeill.