After finishing in second place in VIAHA’s Tier 3 division, the North Island Midget Eagles were more than ready to tackle their first playoff challenge.
The Eagles travelled down island on Sunday to battle the Oceanside Generals, who were coming off a very close 5-3 loss to the Powell River Kings.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game as we had a short bench,” said head coach Ryan Handley. “We talked about getting pucks deep and then working hard and being heavy on the walls wearing their defence down.”
The Eagles managed to get out to an early lead thanks to Keenan Jack scoring at 10:01, assisted by Luke Gage and Joey Grant.
The Generals returned fire at 3:14 with a power play goal from Drew Foreman, assisted by Matthew Green, but fast skating Eagles’ forward Kai Cyr found the back of the net at 2:23, assisted by Grant and Tristan Mardell, to make it 2-1.
Generals’ defenceman Benjamin Tisdelle then managed to convert with 45 seconds left on the clock to tie it up before the second period, assist on the play going to Steven Callewaert.
Into the second period the game went, and it was Cyr who ended up scoring unassisted at 10:53 to give the Eagles a big two-goal lead.
That was when the Generals dug down deep and began to take over the game. Ryland Mowat, Green and Callewaert all scored to make it 5-3, assists going to Callewaert, Evan Obodzinski x2, Maxwell Jeffery, and Caleb Armitage.
With 2:58 left in the period, Braden Walkus came up clutch with a goal of his own to cut the Generals’ lead down to one, assists going to Gage and Jack.
The Eagles knew they were behind and their playoff future was on the line, and they came out of the intermission for the third period ready and willing to change their fate.
Cyr converted just 19:22 into the period, completing the hat trick and tying the game back up, and then with 4:59 left on the clock, Jack netted his second of the game to steal a huge 6-5 victory from the Generals’ grasp.
“We executed fairly well for most of the game and there were results from it, but Oceanside’s season was on the line and they kept coming at us,” said Handley after the game. “Down 5-3 we never panicked, maybe earlier in the season we wouldn’t have been able to hold our composure, but it shows the growth and maturity of this group at a very important time.”
Handley noted the Eagles “laid it on the line and fought back and kept pushing and we were rewarded with a huge win. Gager has been sick for two weeks but he did what he could and he had a great game, Kai Cyr was flying out there and had a hat trick. We put Wads up front and he gave us some real good energy, Bray controlled the play and had two huge blocks for us in the final minute, Griff had a couple beat him that he’d like back but he also had four or five game savers, and our defence was battling hard and the bench attitude was upbeat. They deserved this and now we want to send a message to Powell River next weekend to expect a big game — Oceanside was a good test for us, we can feel good for a couple days and then it’s back to work.”
The Eagles will be back in playoff action against the Powell River Kings on Feb. 8 at 4:00 p.m. at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill.