PORT McNEILL—Coming off a successful road trip to open the 2013-14 season, the North Island Eagles midget rep hockey team returned poised to continue the roll in their home opener.
If it weren’t for a five-minute lapse of focus and discipline, they might have done just that.
The Cowichan Valley Capitals scored three power-play goals in a 57-second stretch — two of them coming with a 5-on-3 advantage — and they proved the difference in a 5-4 win over the Eagles in the third game of the five-round placement schedule at Chilton Regional Arena.
The North Islanders led 2-1 into the mid-game ice cleaning, behind goals by Tyson Cadwallader and David Shaw, and largely controlled play through the first half. But a string of penalties gave the Capitals an extended run of 5-on-3 skating across the final minute of the second period and opening minute of the third.
Ethan Whitelaw scored with just one second left in the first penalty to tie the score 2-2. More importantly, by scoring before the penalty expired he gave Cowichan another 5-on-3 power play, and the team capitalized on a rush by Patrick Poets off the next face-off and a goal for a 3-2 lead. Just 38 seconds later, still on a 5-on-4 power play, Cowichan pushed its lead to 4-2 on another Poets goal.
“The turning point came when they got on the 5-on-3, obviously,” Eagles head coach Dan Slater said. “It was almost a perfect game, other than that. Once they settled down and got back into it, they played a good game.”
Now fighting both a two-goal deficit and Cowichan’s clock-eating, dump-and-chase strategy, the Eagles overextended their attack and left the back door open for Poets to complete a natural hat trick for a 5-2 Capitals edge at 14:08 of the third.
Just when it seemed things were wrapped up, the Eagles rediscovered their forecheck and pushed the visitors back on their heels. Brett Walker’s rebound score during a scrum in front of the Cowichan goal at 15:21 of the third made it 5-3, and Darryl Coon’s blast from the high slot at 17:57 drew the Eagles to 5-4 and set up a wild finish in which the hosts had several more chances to tie before Cowichan ran out the clock and held on for the win.
“We felt they played a good game,” assistant coach D’Arcy Deacon said. “There was a lesson for them in tonight’s game; whether they learn anything from it, we’ll see going forward.”
Riley Browne had a pair of assists in the loss and Malcolm Browne, Darryl Coon, Thomas Coon, Riley Heemels, Tyren Dustin and Ezra Tanaka each added singles.
Goaltending duties were split in the team’s only game of the weekend. Drake Baron played the first half, allowing one goal, and Troy Cadwell came on after the ice clean to get roughed up by the Cowichan power play.
The midgets (2-1) wrap up their placement schedule this weekend with a pair of home games, facing Victoria Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Nanaimo Sunday at 11:15 a.m., both in Port Hardy.