PORT HARDY—The North Island Eagles bantam hockey team on Saturday learned a valuable lesson to take with it into the upcoming Tier 3 Vancouver Island playoffs: they’ll want to have five skaters on the ice as much as possible.
Visiting Peninsula took advantage of a penalty-filled second period to turn a one-goal lead into a rout and wrapped up the Division 3 regular season with an 8-1 win over the Bantams at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.
The Eagles, who played a penalty-free first period, drew to 2-1 when Sean Pineda converted the rebound of a Tanner Roberts shot at 1:04 of the second period. That score held until the middle of the period, at which point the wheels fell off.
Four minor penalties and a five-minute major, later, and the visitors were sitting atop a 7-1 advantage. Three of the goals were officially logged as power-play tallies and a fourth came two seconds after a penalty elapsed, before the Eagle’s fifth skater had joined the play.
“We played better skating 5-on-5,” bantam head coach Boni Sharpe said. “They’ve showed, as a group, they can play at full strength. But 4-on-5 or 3-on-5, it’s not gonna work.”
With the penalties out of their system, the bantams allowed just a single goal the rest of the way, on a breakaway that followed a defenseman gambling — and losing — on a contested puck in the neutral zone.
But the frustration boiled over at the final horn, when a hard hit along the boards resulted in a series of late hits and game misconduct penalties for three players — one from Peninsula and two for the hosts. Combined with the earlier ejection on the checking major, the Eagles will be short three players when they open the playoffs Feb. 1 at Juan de Fuca.
The bantams host Alberni Valley in their second playoff game of the North Island round-robin session at 2 p.m. Sat., Feb. 8, in Port Hardy.