Who can stop the North Island Bantam Eagles?
The answer so far this season is, well, no one. The Eagles are now a perfect 7-0 on the season after hammering the Oceanside Generals 8-2 on Sunday at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena in Port Hardy.
Tye Morash scored twice off the rebound in the first period to put the Eagles up 2-0, and then Tristan Mardell fired the puck past the General’s goaltender Matthew Spencer-Dahl at 13:13 of the second period to make it 3-0 before the ice clean.
After the ice clean, the Generals came out of the dressing room looking downright determined to even the score. Evan Obodzinski scored a beautiful breakaway goal top shelf over Eagles’ goaltender Griffin Handley, and then less than a minute later, Caleb Armitage found the back of the net to make it 3-2.
The Eagles didn’t back down after letting in the two quick goals. Instead, they fired back with a vengeance.
Morash would find the back of the net at 12:05 to complete the hat trick, and then in the third period Mardell converted early at 17:46, followed by Kai Verbrugge at 10:57 to make it a 6-2 blowout.
Mardell kept scoring after that, producing a hat trick thanks to a goal at 8:02, and then Kale Hunt picked up an insurance goal with 39 seconds left on the clock thanks to a blast from the side of the net.
All told, despite the two-goal scare after the ice clean, the game still turned into an 8-2 stomping by the fast skating, hard shooting Eagles.
Coach Ryan Handley gave his thoughts after the game, stating, “I thought Oceanside came at us pretty hard off the start – we have had some time off and our guys were amped up early thanks to the home crowd, family and friends watching, so it took us a few shifts to settle down.”
Handley noted that once the team “got our feet under us and back to our system we started to take over. Glenn Moore (assistant coach) kept saying ‘wave after wave fellas, we keep on them’.”
Regarding the breakdown after the ice clean, Handley said he felt it was “a bad bounce that led to their breakaway goal and then a missed assignment led to their second goal. After that, Mannie Brown made a real nice down low play back post to Morash that got us rolling again. After that, we took over and they couldn’t keep up. Our team speed is our biggest asset. We have a few guys that keep their games at a high level, but I thought William Grant and Morash had really strong games and you can see everyone buying in and working on their games away from the puck — as a coach, it’s nice to see the transition for a few kids. Steve Verbrugge (assistant coach) and Moore do a great job working the bench and I have 100 per cent trust in their judgement when it comes to certain situations.”
Handley stated it will be business as usual after this, as the team will be going “back to work, which is our saying every Sunday.”
The Eagles will be back in action Dec. 15-16 with a two-game series against the Powell River Kings in Port McNeill.