PORT McNEILL—After scoring just three goals in the preceding five periods, the North Island Eagles peewee hockey team made up for lost chances in the third period of Sunday’s Vancouver Island Hockey League game against the visiting Peninsula Eagles.
Rhys Dutcyvich scored four goals, including the game-winner, and Connor Van Will scored back-to-back goals as the peewees stormed back from a 5-3 deficit in the final 7 minutes, 12 seconds to down Peninsula 7-5 at Chilton Regional Arena.
“We held it together,” peewee coach Marty Gage said. “The kids didn’t allow the emotion of the game to get us off our game.”
It was a fitting conclusion for the peewees, who controlled much of the run of play but found themselves trailing Peninsula 5-3 following a rebound goal by Colton Waldhaus with 8:01 remaining.
The squad earlier lost 4-2 to league-leading Kerry Park Saturday in Port Hardy, in a game Gage said was won by the better team, and seemed on its way to a second straight loss.
But less than a minute after Waldhaus gave the visitors their two-goal cushion, Van Will brought the locals within 5-4 by converting a pass in the low slot from Chelsea Noel. Then, with 4:31 remaining, Van Will was in the right place at the right time for the equalizer on a play set up by teammates Mathew Saunders and Joey Grant.
Indeed, Saunders and Grant were instrumental over the final eight minutes of play in running the Eagles’ attack and setting up the comeback, and Saunders finished with three assists and Grant had two — all in the decisive final period.
Dutcyvich, who scored his team’s first three goals to keep the North Islanders in the game, got the game-winner at 17:26 on a point-blank rebound following an extended scrum at the Peninsula net, with assists to Grant and Luke Gage.
Just 16 seconds later, Grant was finally reward with his own goal when he lifted a forehand home for the final score on a breakaway, even as he was tripped up by a trailing defender.
“Rhys obviously had an outstanding game, but we got goals scattered out from several players,” Marty Gage said. “It’s pretty exciting going into the Christmas break with a comeback win.”
The victory lifted the peewees (3-3-2 in league play) into a third-place tie with Peninsula in the Division 3 standings.
The peewees will compete over the break in the Chilliwack Holiday Tournament Dec. 27-30 before returning to league play.
Kerry Park 4,
The Eagles fell 4-2 to a strong Kerry Park side Saturday in Port Hardy, but the local peewees certainly didn’t roll over without a fight.
The Eagles opened the scoring midway through the opening period, Dutcyvich timing his arrival to the crease perfectly to pick up a Grant pass from the right and fire into an untended net.
But the visitors tied it up before the buzzer, perhaps a little against the run of play, poking past goalie Kayden Jones in a goalmouth scramble.
There was nothing lucky about Kerry Park’s next two however, both composed solo finishes.
The Eagles fought back, piling on the pressure and Saunders got the reward, one-timing from the high slot after Luke Gage drew the defense with a round-the-net drive.
Jones was outstanding in the final period, racking up save after save and allowing the Eagles to push forward in search of an equalizer.
A mid-period dustup may have blown off some steam, but it cost valuable momentum and the Eagles were never able to put the visitors on the back foot afterwards.
The visitors sealed the win with a late power-play strike which took a wicked deflection off a stick and ricocheted past the helpless Jones.