PORT HARDY — Their early season struggles behind them, the North Island Eagles rep peewees will carry some momentum with them into their next struggle — the Vancouver Island Hockey League playoffs.
Matthew Cahill scored a hat trick and Brandon Purdey tallied the game-winner Sunday as the peewees closed out the regular season with a 4-2 victory over Comox at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.
The win was the team’s third straight to close out the league season and lifted the Eagles (8-16, 4-6) into third place in Tier 3 after starting the season 1-6 in league play.
The peewees will open the playoffs at home, with a 2 p.m. game Saturday against Saanich in Port Hardy.
“They’re playing well,” peewee coach Dan Wilson said. “Now it’s just a case of fine-tuning the machine for the next season (playoffs).”
The peewees, who very nearly missed entering a team in the league due to low turnout during last fall’s tryouts, began the season with eight skaters fresh from atoms and/or new to contact hockey.
The Eagles went out and won just four of their first 19 games, but the tide turned when the calendar flipped to 2011, and the squad has now won four of its last five entering the postseason.
Cahill scored back-to-back goals in the first period Sunday to put the Eagles ahead to stay.
After Comox scored midway through the second, Purdey charged in from the right boards and buried a shot from the low slot while being knocked to the ice at 14:32 of the period. Cahill pushed the lead to 4-1 on a backhand at 16:38.
Comox got one more goal, on a redirect in traffic in the opening minute of the third period, but Eagles goalie Nyck Ruel and the defence shut the door for the rest of the period.
The peewees’ playoff run will continue Feb. 5 in Port Alice, with a 1 p.m. game against Victoria. They will then travel for games Feb. 12 and 13 at Juan de Fuca and Kerry Park.