The North Island Eagles peewee side had an up-and-down weekend on the road at the Alberni Valley Minor Hockey Thanksgiving Classic last weekend.
Or, more precisely, a down-and-up weekend as the North Island side finished strong after a tough draw pitched them into a loaded upper division of the eight-team, pre-season warm-up tourney.
An early start Saturday saw the Eagles take on Ridge Meadows — eventual tournament winners — at the Weyerhaeuser Arena. The formidable mainland squad raced off to a blistering start, notching five goals in the first period. The Eagles got one back just before the whistle, Tianna Walkus converting a Clayton Bono assist.
Bono himself added another in the second, but the Ridge Meadows outfit proved relentless, adding another five in the second, eventually running out 12-2 winners.
“They are a really good team with very few weaknesses to exploit,” said Eagles coach Marty Gage.
The Eagles fared better against South Delta in their next matchup.
Rhys Dutcyvich opened the scoring at 4:13 in the first, Bono again providing the assist. The Eagles carried the lead into the second, but a pair of goals put Delta into the lead going into the third.
A further pair of Delta strikes in the third put the game beyond the Eagles, 4-1 the final score.
“This was a pretty good game but we just couldn’t come back,” said Gage.
The Eagles were in fightback mode Sunday after falling behind 5-1 against Oceanside midway throughout the second period.
Oceanside had gone two up in the first and doubled their lead on a pair of quick strikes early in the second. A Ryan Patterson goal off a Luke Gage assist pulled one back for the Eagles before the down-Island side went up 5-1.
Matthew Saunders pulled another back for the Eagles off a Dutcyvich assist and Gage added a second to his account courtesy of Liem Wadhams to leave the Eagles 5-3 behind going into the third.
“The game could’ve gone any way at that point,” recalled coach Gage, “but with a couple of penalties we found ourselves shorthanded and they finished us off, 9-3.”
The result saw the Eagles finish fourth in their group and put them up against Cowichan for their final game, the Eagles turning on for a 6-1 win.
“Up against a weaker opponent, we played very well,” said coach Gage. “We showed discipline when the other team started taking bad penalties and capitalizing on our power plays.”
Bono and Devin White struck late in the first for the Eagles and Patterson made it three early in the second.
Bono found the net again twice in the period to earn a hat trick and give the Eagles a 5-0 lead going into the third. Carson Strang rounded out the scoring for the North Islanders before the Cowichan side found a consolation goal.
“It was nice to finish on a high note,” said Marty Gage.
Overall, the Eagles will take away some lessons and plenty of positives from the weekend. “We need to put together a full 60-minute game, stay out of the box and buy into the systems the coaches are teaching,” said Gage. “We had moments of greatness but you need more than just moments to win a game.”
The peewees will be in action again this weekend as the side hosts a pair of exhibition games in Port McNeill against the visiting Comox Valley. The exhibitions are scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Saturday and 8:45 a.m. Sunday.