PORT HARDY—Aside from a bit of special teams difficulty, the improving North Island Eagles peewee rep hockey team had plenty to feel good about despite a pair of exhibition losses to Comox Valley’s A team last weekend at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.
The peewees let a 3-2, second-period lead slip away Sunday in a 6-3 loss to the visiting Chiefs. Three of the final four Comox goals came on the power play.
One day earlier, the Eagles were within 3-2 before Comox scored a pair of late goals in a 5-2 victory.
The peewees, who competed in the Vancouver Island Hockey League’s Division 4 this season, begin the Tier 3 playoffs against Kerry Park in the Cowichan Valley this weekend. Against Comox, they were facing a squad tested by higher level, Division 3 play through the regular season.
“Definitely the kids had a positive effort in the challenge of playing up to the next level,” assistant coach Chad McKenzie said. “Going into the playoffs, they know they have to put their best effort into every shift.”
Sunday’s final score was similar to a 6-2 loss to Comox early in the season, but in that earlier meeting the Chiefs thoroughly dominated en route to a 6-0 lead before the Eagles scored a pair of late goals.
This time, the host club took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by David Charlie in the first period and early second period, and jumped in front 3-2 on Clayton Bono’s wrist shot from the bottom of the circle shortly after the mid-game ice cleaning.
Moments later, though, the team was whistled for the first of what became a series of penalties, and the Chiefs tied it at 12:28 of the second. After going up 4-3 on a shot from the high slot through a heavy screen of traffic at 9:03 of the period, Comox grabbed a two-goal lead on another power-play score past Eagles netminder Michael McLaughlin.
The Eagles had their own man-advantage chances in the third, including a 5-on-3 opportunity, as Comox was whistled for five penalties in the period. But despite a vigorous forecheck and several quality opportunities, they were unable to cut into the margin.
Then, when the Chiefs found themselves on another power-play, they got one final goal to close out the scoring.
“The thing we saw is our team never gave up,” McKenzie said. “That’s one thing we stress to them all the time, and we’re proud of that effort.”
Devin White had two assists for the Eagles and Benton Browne added a helper.
Comox 5, Eagles 2
After a scoreless first period Saturday, the Chiefs got a pair of goals in the early part of the second to take a 2-0 lead into the ice-cleaning break. But Carson Strang scored an unassisted goal shortly after the teams returned to the ice to make it 2-1 and, after Comox score again to start the third, White drew the Eagles back within 3-2 off a Dutcyvich assist at 8:33 of the period.
That score held until the final four minutes of the game, when the Chiefs clinched it with two more goals a minute and a half apart.