PORT HARDY—The peewee North Island Eagles got their season off to a great start Saturday as they comprehensively beat the Comox Valley Chiefs 6-2 at home.
The Eagles took a little time to settle in an evenly matched first period, but gradually took command of the play as the period progressed. The increasing pressure paid off when the home side struck first, Mathew Saunders slotting in the puck from a put-back on the crease to open the season’s account for the locals with just under four minutes remaining.
Two minutes later Carson Strang doubled the Eagles’ advantage off a Rhys Dutcyvich assist.
The Eagles continued the onslaught in the second and were rewarded when Devin White put Ryan Patterson through on goal early in the period and Patterson’s conversion left the home side three up and coasting into the break.
The Eagles took their foot off the gas a little when they returned to the ice and the Comox side pressed the advantage and were rewarded with a goal with 1:44 left in the second.
The Eagles retook their three-goal buffer a minute and a half into the third when a probing run down the left by Clayton Bono drew the visitors’ defence to the boards. Bono centred the puck to Strang in front of the goal, and he controlled the puck before slotting it home.
The goal fired a response from Comox, which mounted pressure on the Eagles’ defence for a spell, but the visitors seemed to lack a decisive touch in the final period. The Chiefs got their breakthrough at 11:28, a medium-range shot finding its way through traffic and past Eagles goalie Michael McLaughlin, who had a strong showing between the posts.
Any thoughts of a Comox comeback were quickly extinguished by the host club, which found an extra gear and stepped up the tempo again.
A driving move down the right by Saunders left the back door open for Payton Laming to take up a spot on the back post, and when Saunders’ speculative shot was deflected Laming was in the perfect spot to pounce on the rebound and take the Eagles to 5-2.
As the clock wound down Saunders struck again, guiding the puck around the goalie’s outstretched stick to squeeze home a put-back and underline an impressive start to the season.
The bantams were next up in action, facing the Victoria Ice Hawks, a bantam A side, in a tiering placement game. The Eagles held their own against a strong outfit and were unlucky not to take the win, settling for a 1-1 draw after a last-ditch equalizer from the visitors.
The two sides made a blistering start to the game, going end-to-end and trading chances. The Eagles thought they had taken the initiative when Tanner Roberts arrived at the back post to slot the puck home but the referees ruled that the whistle had blown a fraction of a second previous and disallowed the strike.
The visitors then found their rhythm, forcing the Eagles on to the back foot to soak up the pressure and try to hit on the counter.
The Eagles looked dangerous going forward, Mercedes Trevor and Charlie David in particular seeming to find extra space on the break time and again.
The patience paid off and the Eagles got their reward midway through the second period when Jake Grinnell found Trevor parked on the back post and she turned the puck into the net.
The visitors surged forward to press for a quick equalizer but Eagles goalie Nyck Ruel was a rock between the posts in the first half. Nigel Walkus took up the mantle of home goalie in the second half and proved a worthy replacement.
Walkus was immediately in action as the Victoria outfit desperately sought to score but the Eagles were strong defensively and quick on the counter. The home side looked to be running out the clock for an impressive win when the visitors scored with just one minute left on the clock to earn the tie.
The Eagles midgets got their tiering round off to a rousing start on the road last weekend, posting a 4-2 win over Juan de Fuca in Victoria Saturday before blasting Comox B 9-2 Sunday. No scoring details were available.
The midgets play their home opener Saturday in Port McNeill when they host Cowichan Valley at 4 p.m.
In other games this weekend, the peewees remain on the North Island for a pair of tiering games in Port McNeill. They will host Sooke Saturday at 1:45 p.m. and return to Chilton Regional Arena Sunday for an 11:15 a.m. matchup with Alberni Valley.
The bantams hit the road for a pair of contests on the south end of the Island, Saturday against Victoria Racquet Club and Sunday at Peninsula.
The Eagles’ atom development team opens its season on the road this weekend, playing at Nanaimo Saturday at 11 a.m. and against Oceanside in Parksville Sunday at 10:15 a.m.