The North Island Bantam Eagles improved to 8-0 on the season with a gritty win on Sunday morning in Port McNeill against the Powell River Kings.
The Kings were in town the night before for an exhibition game, in which the Eagles ended up just scraping by with a 4-3 win. Goals were scored by Kai Verbrugge (x2), Cole Klughart, and captain David Klatt (assists went to Kale Hunt, Tyler Roper, Tye Morash, Brandon Brotchie, and Aren Kuufas).
Eagles’ head coach Ryan Handley noted that coming into this weekend, “we knew it would be our biggest test yet and we were a bit worried at how we would react. Saturday night we allowed them to dictate the flow and they played the body hard and we really didn’t push back at all.”
Assistant coach Glenn Moore agreed with Handley’s assessment, noting, “we didn’t play a solid 55 minutes on Saturday. Powell River was a team that came at us hard, finishing all of their checks, but we showed some real grit digging down deep for the two points.”
Moore felt the rematch on Sunday morning was more of a “very good team game, doing a lot of the little things that were missing from our game Saturday. Powell River forced us to raise our bar and I think we responded well.”
The Eagles ended up shutting out the Kings 5-0 on Sunday, thanks to a steady stream of goals in all three periods coming from Roper, Verbrugge, Morash, Mardell, and Klatt. Assists went to Klatt, Mannie Browne (x2), Roper, Garrett Beek (x2), Josh Nielsen and Liam Norman.
“Before the game on Sunday we as a staff touched on what has made us successful this year, and the fact is when we use our speed and move the puck with authority it is amazing to watch,” said Handley. “We thought right from the start on Sunday it was us who forced them. Our forecheck was much better, we finished checks when we needed to, and having ‘The Rock’ Mannie Browne back (left after warmup on Saturday night with an injury) helped our physical game, as he is by far our most physical player. When he hits, other teams notice. We played like the team we know we are and everyone stepped up and we won a huge game for our group. We lost William Grant late in Saturday’s game to an injury, but our defence really stepped up and worked hard in his absence. We are looking forward to the Christmas break, which doesn’t last long but should give some guys a chance to rest and heal, and we’ll be heading to Port Alberni for our final tournament on Boxing Day.”
Handley added that it was “really nice to have Thor Rosback (assistant coach) back this weekend after dealing with the loss of his father, he’s an important part of our group and the boys really have attached to him.”