Despite a short bench, the North Island Bantam Eagles have continued to keep winning games in VIAHA’s competitive Tier 2 division.
After going undefeated throughout preseason tiering, the Eagles won their first game of the regular season against the Tier 3 Kerry Park Islanders before suffering a close 6-4 loss to the Tier 2 Juan De Fuca Grizzlies.
The Eagles rebounded from their first loss by winning back to back games against the Tier 2 Nanaimo Clippers and the Tier 1 Comox Valley Chiefs.
This past weekend, they had an important two-game series at the Chilton Regional Arena against the very tough Tier 2 Victoria Admirals, which was another big challenge for them on the road to earning the league banner.
The first game on Saturday was an exhibition, and the Eagles came out a bit flatfooted and paid for it, as the Admirals’ Luca Porter opened the scoring at 11:50, assisted by Rohan Bandechha.
The Eagles would answer back after Tye Morash got the feed from Aren Kufaas and Zach Spafford. Morash then unleashed a bullet of a slapshot from the point to tie things up with 1:15 left in the first period.
The Eagles would continue scoring from there, with Landon Turgeon finding the back of the net at 19:02 (assisted by Jack Barrett) to give the Eagles a one-goal lead.
The Admirals, however, refused to quit and kept on pressing, scoring two unanswered goals (courtesy of Jake Westhaver and Alejandro Snead) to make it 3-2.
Finding themselves down once again, the Eagles regrouped and started to dig deep looking for the equalizer.
It paid off as Spafford knocked the puck past the Admirals’ goaltender Elliott Walker on a power play at 10:43 to tie things up before the ice clean.
Into the third period the game went with no change in scoring, and the Eagles knew they needed to do something to put the Admirals away for good.
That was when Captain William Grant took matters into his own hands, dialling up a huge slap shot and firing it top shelf at 13:14 to give them the lead. Assists on the power play goal went to Morash and Turgeon.
Turgeon would then convert at 9:39, assisted by Grant, to make it 5-3 for the Eagles.
The Admirals’ Michael Tang would get the puck past Eagles’ goaltender Logan Lamothe once more at 3:09, but that was it for them offensively, as Grant iced the empty netter with only 41 seconds left to bring the game to a close 6-4.
The Eagles and the Admirals would have a rematch the very next day at 9:00 a.m., and this was another close game, but the Eagles ultimately prevailed again, winning 6-4 after three periods.
Goals were scored by Barrett (x2), Morash, Spafford (who now has 15 goals in 12 games), Kufaas, and Turgeon. Assists went to Grant, Turgeon (x2), Morash, Barrett, Lucca Stewart, and Kufaas.
“I think our warmup song ‘it’s a long way to the top’ sums it all up,” said head coach Glenn Moore after the game. “Kudos to the boys for doing what it takes to get two wins, but we all as a group recognize we still have some holes in our game.”
Moore noted that on Saturday the Eagles played like a tired team, “but seeing as some of the guys had been at the rink all day supporting the other Eagles’ teams in their games, it’s not surprising we were a little sluggish.”
He added the coaching staff felt the boys dominated Sunday’s game by moving the puck “as well as we have all season, and we got a lot of quality chances early. Their goalie played well, and if not for him, it would have been a different score.”
Moore said he thinks it was one of those weekends where “some guys raised their bars, and I liked the way our power play came together.”
The Eagles are now sitting in the driver’s seat in the Tier 2 division with a 4-1 record, and will be back in action Nov. 30 against the Tier 1 Victoria Racquet Club, and then have a rematch the next day against the only team to defeat them so far, the Juan De Fuca Grizzlies.