The North Island Peewee Eagles were ready for a dogfight on Sunday against the Kerry Park Islanders.
It was the first game of the best of three playoff finals to see who would move on to the Tier 3 provincial championships, which are being held in Powell River this year, and the game definitely did not disappoint as emotions were high right from the first whistle.
The game started out at a very fast pace with the Eagles missing numerous chances to open the scoring, but they finally managed to convert thanks to Zach Spafford skating around the net to the top of the circle and firing the puck past Islanders’ goaltender Vaughn Purnton at 14:49.
The Islanders would eventually answer back with a goal of their own, courtesy of Quinn Bond, with 1:15 left on the clock, and that was all she wrote for the first period.
With the score still tied 1-1 midway through the second, it was the Islanders who would jump out ahead, thanks to Kanan Robinson banging the puck home at 11:31.
The Islanders kept pouring on the pressure from there. They scored again at 9:34 thanks to a Brandon Kendall backhand shot that made it 3-1, but it was captain Lucca Stewart who found the twine off a Jack Barrett rebound shot at 6:49 to bring the Eagles within one of tying the game.
The Islanders, however, kept rushing back down the ice on the offensive, and their efforts paid off as Bond scored at 4:57 to regain the two-goal lead.
The Eagles knew they had dug themselves a hole that they desperately needed to start climbing out of before the end of the period, or else the game could potentially slip away from their grasp.
With 57 seconds left on the clock, their hard work digging in the Islanders’ zone ended up paying off thanks to a bouncing point shot from Lucca Stewart that Spafford deflected in through traffic to bring the Islanders’ lead to one.
You could cut the tension with a knife as the third period finally commenced. The passionate fans in the crowd shouted praise for both teams in an attempt to hype the players up, but it was the Eagles who would strike first.
Spafford dug the puck out of the corner and passed it over to Barrett who was skating in on a fast break. Barrett then roofed the puck top shelf at 15:47 to tie the game as the hometown crowd exploded with cheers.
While the Eagles celebrated the game tying goal, the Islanders regrouped and refused to lay down and go home quietly. Brendan Van Oene got the pass from linemate Noah Hunt and found the back of the Eagles’ net at 14:35 to reinstate the one-goal lead.
With time winding down, the Eagles were granted a power play after their goaltender Logan Lamothe was slashed on the wrist, and they used the man advantage to get the puck in down low.
Lucca Stewart skated in, quickly grabbed the puck off a rebound shot from Spafford, and knocked it past Purnton to tie things up 5-5, sending the game into sudden death overtime.
Right from the drop of the puck in OT the Eagles were digging hard, hunting for the game-winning goal, and it came just 9:03 into the period when Lucca Stewart got the feed from Barrett and fired it home, completing the hat trick and giving the Eagles a hard-fought 6-5 victory.
After the game, Lucca Stewart said the game-winning goal came about because of how he and his teammates worked together to score.
He said his favourite part of the game was “beating Kerry Park” and that he’s excited to play them again because he wants to “beat them again.”
Lucca Stewart noted the Eagles were successful because they “worked hard” and “played 60 minutes.”
Head coach Dave Stewart said it was “another solid effort from our team. (We) battled hard against Kerry Park (who) came out hungry. We weathered the storm and pulled out a victory. Good teams find ways to win, and we certainly did that today.”
Assistant coach Kevin Livingston stated the team “improved on every shift they played” and assistant coach Chad Mackenzie agreed with him, adding, “the team went into a battle. They took a few bumps but stayed focused on what would win them the game. A good hard effort with the only lip service being positive support of their teammates efforts.”
The Eagles will be back in action next weekend in Kerry Park as they continue their path towards winning a playoff banner and a spot in the provincial championships.