PORT HARDY—A three-minute spell late in the second made all the difference as the North Island Eagles midgets overwhelmed visiting Juan de Fuca at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena Sunday.
It would have been a bad time to beat the rush for a hot dog as the Eagles transformed a slender 1-0 lead into a 5-1 domination in Division 3 league play.
The Eagles carried the advantage courtesy of a Darryl Coon strike in the first period, when Thomas Symons doubled their lead and sparked a goal frenzy with 4:45 left in the second.
What had been a relatively staid return to the ice since the mid-game cleaning exploded as Symons’ goal jolted the game to life.
Straight from the puck drop, Tyren Dustin surged forward down the left of the slot, catching the visitors on their heels, and lifted the puck high into the net to extend the Eagles’ lead to 3-1.
Forty seconds later, Juan de Fuca pulled one back on a power play, a deflection off a crisp shot from the blue line finding its way past Eagles’ goalie Drake Baron, the first blemish on a strong performance.
The comeback was snuffed out with 1:32 in the period, Malcolm Browne carving left to right and besting the Juan de Fuca netminder.
Just five seconds later they did it again. Riley Heemels burst forward from the restart and did well to steer home from the right of the slot with defenders diving in front.
The visitors got a consolation early in the third but never looked like staging a serious comeback, the home side oozing confidence with between-the-legs moves and crisp passing. With the score all but out of sight, tempers began to flare on the ice and the remainder was punctuated by big hits and penalty calls.
“I thought our guys actually played a really good game of hockey; they moved the puck about well,” said coach D’Arcy Deacon. “We showed some good discipline too, not engaging too much after the whistle. Other teams go a goal or two down and get frustrated. Our guys showed some discipline today.”
The goal-laden second period was a world away from Saturday’s exhibition where the two sides played out a tight, tit-for-tat 2-2 draw. “Yesterday there was a lot of individual play,” said Deacon. “Today was a lot more of a team effort.”
Blueliners Browne and Coltton Slater provided the goals in Saturday’s tie, with assists going to David Shaw and Tyson Cadwallader.
The side now has a break from league play, and will skate in a tournament in Comox Jan. 3-5 before returning Jan. 11 for a home game against Saanich. But Deacon said that the players would still work on their performance during the down-time. “We’re having some fun skates over the next couple of days and doing some team-building off the ice to get ready for the tournament in Comox in the New Year,” he said.