After a disappointing home game loss to the Tier 2 Alberni Valley Bulldogs effectively ended the North Island Bantam Eagles playoff run, the team still had one game left to play down island against the Nanaimo Clippers.
While the game against the Clippers didn’t mean anything from a playoff position standpoint, the Eagles wanted to regroup and show what kind of a team they really are before the provincial championship, which is being held this year in Port Hardy March 17-20.
The Eagles wasted no time coming out and firing on the Clippers in the Feb. 9 game, with Kai Verbrugge finding the back of the net at 9:36 of the first period (assisted by William Grant).
Then, with 2:11 left on the clock, Tristan Mardell would pick up the puck and score to make it 2-0.
The second period featured more of the same. The Eagles would blow the game open with five unanswered goals thanks to Mardell, Tye Morash, Tyler Roper (x2), and Aren Kufaas, with assists going to captain David Klatt, Verbrugge, Kale Hunt, Matthew Datos, and Mardell.
The third period was a bit quieter, with only Liam Norman and Kufaas scoring (assists went to Morash and Norman), to mercifully bring the game to an end 9-3.
After the game, head coach Ryan Handley stated he felt the Eagles “did a lot of good things” and “didn’t let the fact it was a meaningless game” throw them off.
“This team hadn’t lost back to back games all year and this would have been an easy one to take to lightly,” said Handley. “We had challenged some of the guys to get their games back on track and they stepped up. I thought our captain had one of his best games all year and we all know he needed to.”
Handley said he told Klatt after the game “that’s the #12 we all need moving forward, and he knows that. Rope and Tristan were good, Kuufer chipped in with a couple goals and Matthew is really starting to get his feet under him and the confidence is rising.”
All told, Handley felt it was a “good start in the right direction for our group and we will continue to get better and try and get some exhibition games against some Tier 2 teams over the next month.”
The Eagles will be competing March 17-20 at the provincial championships in Port Hardy. If you want to volunteer at the tournament, please contact Cyndy Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.