PORT HARDY—They may not have topped the table but the two local sides involved in last weekend’s Port Hardy Minor Hockey peewee tournament brought the crowd to their feet with a pair of thrilling, down-to-the-wire playoff games.
Saturday’s round-robin games saw the Port McNeill Redneck Legends face off against the Comox Wolverines in the seventh-place playoff, the local side losing out 5-4 to a breakaway game-winner seconds before the final buzzer.
The real damage was done at the start of the third period however. With a 3-2 lead going into the final period, the Redneck Legends were twice caught in possession, Comox pouncing to add two goals in 20 seconds.
Reece Lloyd made it 4-4 soon after, but a breakaway goal from the visitors just before the final buzzer broke the locals’ hearts.
Port McNeill had held a lead through the first two periods after Madison Van Will struck to open the scoring, with Riddell Puglas and Destiny Speck adding to the tally.
The hometown side fared better, notching a 3-1 victory over the Nanaimo Hitmen to claim fifth in the eight-team tourney.
Port Hardy Swarm goalie Avary Miller was mobbed by teammates at the final buzzer after a series of critical saves by Miller in the third period — including a penalty shot stop — preserved the slender home lead.
The Swarm held a 2-1 lead late in the third when a Hitmen breakaway was illegally scythed down from behind. Nathan Ostle stepped up for Nanaimo to take the resulting penalty shot but Miller was equal to the challenge.
With the clock running down Nanaimo pulled its goalie for a final push but Eli Heller found the empty net off a Seth Hanuse pass to seal the victory.
The pair combined for all three of Port Hardy’s goals, Hanuse finding the net off a Heller assist to open the scoring on the first period. The visitors tied it up the second before Hanuse turned provider, putting Heller in for his first.
First place in the tourney went to the Nanaimo Phantoms after a 7-4 victory over the Oceanside Sharks capped an undefeated weekend for the Nanaimo side, while the Campbell River Eagles took third place for a 3-1 win over the Oceanside Thunderbirds.