The North Island Bantam Eagles came out of the dressing room guns ablaze to start off their Tier 3 playoff run.
The Eagles had a first round matchup against the Tier 3 Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill, and they wasted very little time finding the back of the net.
Sniper Zach Spafford made a great pass out front to Jack Barrett who buried the puck past Bulldogs’ goaltender Declan Fines just 20 seconds into the first period, and then around eight minutes later Landon Turgeon fired a shot that Tye Morash deflected in off the blade of his skate, with the assist on the play going to Kale Hunt.
Spafford would then fire the puck home at 4:23, assisted by captain William Grant and Barrett, to make it 3-0 going into the second period.
The second featured more of the same, the Eagles dominated the Bulldogs offensively while the strong defensive play of Bryson Hall, Grant, Christopher Topfer, Nathan Strang and Garrett Beek shut down any opportunities the Bulldogs might have had.
Turgeon managed to find the back of the net just 15:21 into the period, assisted by Morash, and then Grant, Morash (x2) and Barrett all scored to make it a 8-0 blowout. Assists on the goals went to Spafford (x2), Barrett and Grant.
The Eagles would add three more goals in the third period thanks to Turgeon, Morash and Barrett, assists going to Grant, Aren Kufaas, Hunt, Topfer and Lucca Stewart, while the Bulldogs managed to gain a bit of revenge by breaking Logan Lamothe’s shutout with a goal from Jakob Murray, assisted by Jace Fedirchuk, with 5:38 left.
Final score: 11-1 for the hometown Eagles.
After the game, head coach Glenn Moore said the Bulldogs were “a bit of a mystery to us… we haven’t played them since tiering and then they played Tier 3 all season.”
He added the Eagles wanted to have “a very good start to extinguish any hope they might have had. And the boys did that by scoring on the first shift, and it continued from there as we played a very good game by making the right play at right time.”
Moore noted while they were dominating the game, the team “had a shift where a few assignments were missed in the defensive zone and it cost us the shutout.”
The Eagles were back in the action the very next day, this time facing off against the Tier 2 Oceanside Generals.
Once again the Eagles got out to a fast start as Grant netted the puck at 11:52, assist on the play going to Beek.
Barrett and Morash would both find the twine before the first period ended, with the assist on Barrett’s goal going to Spafford, to make it 3-0.
Spafford and Adam Russell ended up scoring in the second period, assists going to Barrett, Grant and Morash, to give them a huge 5-0 lead.
That was when the Eagles let their foot off the gas a bit, and the Generals started to find some success.
Gage Boulton (x2), Benjamin Groom, Truman Croden and Willem Whitehead all found the back of the net in the third period for the Generals, but luckily for the Eagles, Spafford (x2), Morash and Barrett (x2) scored as well to keep them in the lead.
All told, the Eagles managed to hold on for a big 10-5 victory.
“Again we were playing a team we haven’t seen,” said Moore. “We played them earlier in the year and then the next game was cancelled due to weather. They were a team that also played Tier 2 this season so we knew we were going to have to raise our bar for this game.”
Moore credited the team’s success in this game to “a good start. The guys knew this was a big game and we came ready to compete. The final score does not actually tell the story of the game, as we gave up a bunch of easy goals late because we got soft in the defensive zone, took poor lanes to the puck, and got away from our defensive zone coverage.”
While Moore wasn’t pleased with the third period, he stated he was happy overall with the team’s performance this weekend, and that if they continue to keep scoring more goals than the other teams, “we should be fine.”
The Eagles are back in action Feb. 1 in a round robin showdown with the Powell River Kings.