You can call them golden.
On Remembrance Day weekend, the North Island Peewee Eagles travelled south to compete in an eight-team, Tier 3 hockey tournament.
With teams as far away as Whitehorse and three from the mainland Vancouver area, it was a “great inaugural tournament hosted by the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies,” said coach Ryan Handley.
The tournament featured round robin play, and the Eagles got off to a slow start Friday night in their first game against the Campbell River Tyees.
It was a game the Eagles should’ve won easily, but “the boys took their foot off the gas and it almost cost us,” Handley said, adding that they had also started first year Peewee goalie Bryce Walkus between the pipes.
The final score was a 5-5 tie, with goals for the Eagles coming from Ethan Bono (x2), David Klatt (x2), and Brandon Brotchie. Assists went to Bono, Kai Verbrugge and Tye Morash.
The next day brought two more tough games for the Eagles, starting with an early morning tilt against the Cloverdale Colts.
The action was tight early on, with the Eagles’ goalie Griffin Handley making crucial saves to keep it tied until the offence could get something going. The 1st period featured goals from Bono, Mannie Brown and William Grant, which had the Eagles soaring 3-0.
The Colts had other ideas, though. They stormed back with four unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead at the ice clean.
During the intermission, the Eagles’ coaching staff told the team that if they didn’t want to go out there and compete, then they should “take off their gear and we will call it a day,” said Handley, referring to the team’s lack of effort in the 2nd period.
From that moment on, it was a different team.
Bono tied it up early in the 3rd with a great short handed goal and Tyler Roper netted the game winner with 6:44 left in the 3rd.
Later that afternoon, the Eagles played a game against South Delta which they needed to win to lock up first place in their pool.
After a scoreless 1st period which saw the Eagles’ goalie Griffin Handley and South Delta’s goalie Brady Macdonald put on a show, the Eagles’ offence finally got on the scoreboard in the 2nd with a big goal from Grant.
Six minutes later, South Delta tied it up 1-1 going into the ice clean.
Verbrugge restored the Eagles lead with 6 minutes left to play in the 2nd, but once again South Delta answered with a goal, tying the game up with just 2:14 left to go in the 2nd.
With the 3rd period playing out very similar to the 1st, it was a nerve racking experience for the team as the clock started to run down with the score till tied 2-2. With time ticking away, the Eagles’ Klatt got the puck and went end-to-end, cutting hard to the net.
South Delta’s goalie made the save, but the Eagles’ Kale Hunt poked the puck across the goal line with 2:39 left on the clock.
South Delta pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, and once again Griffin Handley came up clutch with a terrific glove save with only seconds left on the clock, preserving the Eagles’ razor thin victory.
“It was a great hockey game,” said Handley, who praised Klatt’s end-to-end rush after the game. “He’s an amazing skater, plays in key situations and plays at 100 mph all game.”
Sunday morning’s semi final match up saw the Eagles go toe-to-toe with the host team the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies.
In a game that featured both Bono and linemate Roper collecting hat tricks, and one goal from Morash, the Grizzlies were clearly overmatched and it showed on the scoreboard.
The Eagles skated to a convincing 7-4 win, with Bono and Roper adding two assists each and singles from Klatt and Grant.
Bryce Walkus got the start in the net this game, and it was a “tough decision on who to start, but after talking to my assistant coaches Glenn Moore and Cody Diotte, we felt Bryce needed to have the opportunity to play in a big game. This is his second year in the net, and experience makes you better. He did what he needed to do and helped us win a big game,” said Handley.
That set up a winner takes all showdown between the two top seeds in the tournament, the Eagles and the Whitehorse Mustangs.
“We opted to stay at the rink between games, get some water and fruit in the boys and stay loose,” Handley said, and it seemed to pay off.
The Eagles jumped on the Mustangs early and built a 3-1 lead with a goal from Bono and two from Roper. Assists went to Morash and Grant.
The Eagles kept the tempo up and battled their way to a 5-2 lead after two periods of play. Goals were scored by Bono and Klatt in the 2nd, and Evan Manke had two assists. Griffin Handley got the start in net for the final game, and he was solid for the Eagles.
Between periods, assistant coach Glenn Moore uttered “We haven’t done anything yet. We have 20 hard miles to go.”
“We expected a push from the Mustangs and we got it,” said Handley.
The Eagles were determined not to sleep on their lead and they pushed back, finishing strong with 3rd period goals from Duante Mckinney, Hunt and Bono to take home the gold medals with a thrilling 8-5 victory.
“It was a very good weekend for our group,” said Handley. “We as a coaching staff are very proud of the boys.”
The Eagles had a rematch against the Tyees at the Doug Bondue Arena in Port McNeill on Saturday, Nov. 19, and this time they didn’t take their foot off the gas.
Roper scored at 13:26 of the 1st period to take a 1-0 lead over the Tyees, and then Hunt scored with 3:26 left on the clock to make it 2-0.
The Eagles continued to play with confidence and built on their lead in the 2nd period. Manke scored at 16:36, Morash netted a goal at 13:51, and then Brotchie added one more goal at 11:34 to give them a 5-1 lead going into the 3rd period.
In the 3rd, the Eagles kept their nose to grindstone and added more goals to the scoreboard.
Bono scored at 17:40, Morash got his second goal of the game at 16:41, Klatt netted a goal at 13:23, and then Roper scored his second of the game with 6:18 left on the clock to give them a 9-2 blowout win.
Griffin Handley got the start between the pipes and he was superb all game, keeping the Eagles lead in tact with some great saves in all three periods.
As of this writing, the Eagles are 4-0 in league play, and are tied with Comox Valley for first place in the Tier 3 Pee Wee VIAHA league standings.
Their next league game is Nov. 27 at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill against the Saanich Braves.