North Island Eagles bantam goalie Riley Mathieson steers aside a shot by Kyle Harman of Saanich while teammate Matt Lingl applies pressure Saturday in Port Alice.

Sluggish play grounds Eagles bantams

The North Island Eagles bantams will have to look for some momentum during the upcoming bye week

Any athletic team wants to go into its postseason playoffs with some momentum.

The North Island Eagles bantams will have to look for theirs during the upcoming bye week.

The Eagles came out sluggish Saturday in Port Alice en route to a 5-0 Vancouver Island Hockey League Division 2 loss to Saanich, then responded with an even more brutal start in a 9-2 drubbing by the Comox Chiefs Sunday in Port Hardy.

The Eagles surrendered five unanswered goals in the first period Sunday before Tyren Dustin snapped home the team’s first goal in three league games with 3:07 left in the period.

Riley Heemels added a third-period goal as the bantams played the visitors even over the final 20 minutes. But even when the Eagles matched their opponents’ intensity, goalie Riley Mathieson spent much of the weekend as the lone duck in a shooting gallery.

“It seems like they’re on a slow-burning fuse,” bantam coach Dan Wilson said Saturday after highlighting the team’s solid third-period effort after falling behind 5-0 in the first 33 minutes. “We keep trying to stress to them they need to have that aggressiveness 24/7.”

Certainly, the bantams have shown flashes of competitiveness — they did so again Sunday against Comox over the final 35 minutes after the visitors rolled to a 7-1 lead before the midgame ice-cleaning.

But the final weekend of the regular season highlighted just how miscast the young team was this season. After breezing through their exhibition and tiering schedule with a perfect 6-0 record, the Tier 3 Eagles were bumped up a level to play the regular season in a Division 2 made up mostly of larger, Tier 2 programs.

The Eagles roster is made up in large part of skaters who were playing either at the peewee level or in house hockey a season ago. Dustin, who added an assist to his goal Sunday, only joined the team full-time following Christmas break after serving as an affiliated player through Port McNeill Minor Hockey earlier this season.

And two of the veterans of last season’s run to the Tier 3 provincial championships have been slowed by injury as the team slipped to the bottom of the league standings.

Instead of lifting the bantams to the level of the competition, the placement in Division 2 has resulted in a series of beatings that seems to have sapped their confidence.

Along the way, Wilson and his staff have juggled lineups and systems in an effort to find something to reverse the team’s direction. Nearly every blueliner has taken a turn on a forward line, while early season mainstays at centre and wing have found themselves playing defence at some point.

After a weekend off while the VIHL sets its playoff schedule, the Eagles will “drop” back to Tier 3 for the playoffs, which begin the following week. But Wilson points out that will not translate into easy opponents. One of those Tier 3 teams, Powell River, posted a 1-0 win over the bantams in Port Alice the weekend before last and is leading the same Division II in which the Eagles have taken their lumps.

“There will be no big adjustment,” Wilson said. “It’s not like we’re dropping down to play lackluster teams. We’ve just got to get into practice and see if we can get some kind of spark.

“We’ll just try to keep them focused and then see if we get Jekyll or Hyde.”

 

Just Posted

VIDEO: Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre Grad 2018

Grade 12 student Jade Hanuse was presented with her diploma from Principal Sheila Mcgrath.

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Port Hardy takes next step towards legal cannabis sales

Two public hearings were held to seek input on cannabis zoning bylaw

Kervin’s Corner: Eye sore or tourist attraction? District of Port Hardy to display windmill blade anyway

Do you like the idea of putting up the windmill blade on display in Port Hardy?

Port Harvey bylaw lands in supreme court

Property owners attempt to quash zoning bylaw allowing shipyard

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

Serial killer Robert Pickton transferred to Quebec: victim’s family

Pickton was convicted in December 2007 of six counts of second degree murder

Man shot dead in Surrey ID’d as hockey coach and father of two

Paul Bennett was ‘a champion for the sport,’ team manager says

Canadian Syrian children’s choir not to attend festival over fears about U.S. travel

Many kids are recent immigrants from countries covered by Trump travel ban

Amalgamation fails in North Cowichan and Duncan

North Cowichan says yes, but Duncan says no

B.C. teacher ends Jeopardy! winning streak, taking home US$69,000

Ali Hasan, from New Westminster, has been gaining fans as a “one-man invasion,” says Alex Trebek

Jett Woo highlights 5 Canucks choices on Day 2 of NHL entry draft

WHL star out of Moose Jaw tabbed in Round 2

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

Most Read