It was do or die for the North Island Peewee Eagles this weekend.
After tying the Oceanside Generals 1-1 down island to start round robin playoffs, the Eagles were scheduled for a two-game series on home ice against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The first game was against the Bulldogs on Saturday, and the Eagles got out to a slow start, conceding three goals in the first period thanks to Kyle Ralston (x2) and Zoe Kevin. Assists on the goals went to Brielle Banton, Seth Corlazzoli, and Brooke Mauke.
The Bulldogs would add another goal to the scoreboard at 18:19 of the second period courtesy of Ralston to make it 4-0, and that was when the Eagles decided to kick things into second gear.
High scoring forwards Kyle Rushton and Tanner Livingston found the back of the net at 13:55 and :14 respectively, with the assist on Rushton’s goal going to Livingston, to cut the Bulldogs’ lead in half.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Ralston would score again at 17:13 of the third period to make it 5-2.
The Eagles didn’t give up and go away quietly, however. Carter Henschke netted the puck at 4:24, assists going to Livingston and Rushton, and then Maddy Jorgenson fired a bouncing puck from the point past the Bulldogs’ goaltender Kaysen Brossoit with 1:52 left on the clock to bring them within one of tying the game.
The Eagles pulled their goaltender Matt Mercer for the extra attacker, but they just weren’t able to find the game tying goal that was needed before the buzzer sounded.
Final score: 5-4 for the Bulldogs.
After the game, head coach Al Rushton said he felt the Eagles “started out a bit slow, got down right away, but then in the second half the kids started playing Eagle hockey and we almost pulled it off.”
Rushton noted that losing their captain Rylan Krawietz to an injury (broken collarbone) has been “a huge detriment to us, our captain is our true leader, he’s a second year player, and now he’s out for the rest of the season.”
The Eagles had no time to feel down about the loss to the Bulldogs, as they had another big game scheduled against the Capitals on Sunday afternoon.
Once again the Eagles found themselves down early, as the Capitals’ Porter Williamson scored on Eagles’ goaltender Lucas Handley off the very first shot of the game in the first period.
That was the way the score would stay until midway through the second period, when Travyn Foster made his presence known with a beauty of a goal to tie things up, assists going to Maddox Peterson and Isabella Stewart.
The game would stay tied until late in the third period, and it was Yuri Noel who came up clutch by netting the game winning goal, assists going to Dakota Knighton and Jayce Cheetham.
Peterson added an insurance goal at 3:19 (assists going to Foster and Stewart) to capture a big 3-1 victory.
“I think as a team we all stepped up,” said Rushton after thanking his players in the dressing room for their efforts in keeping their playoff run alive. “Yuri scored a big goal and it was his third game ever playing defence, and he scored the game winner today. He’s excelling back there, I’m super proud of him and all of the other kids, they all battled. We don’t have full on natural scorers like the bantams who got the Zach’s and Jack’s, we gotta win by working harder than everyone else and that’s how we compete.”
When asked what’s next for the Eagles, Rushton noted they’ve got a “big game coming up against Powell River, they’re a Tier 2 team who dropped down to Tier 3 for playoffs, and they’re gonna be a battle. We gotta go into Powell River and we gotta get a win, and then we have Campbell River as our last game” of the round robin playoffs.
Rushton added he feels the Eagles definitely have a chance to keep their playoff run alive. “We had to get the win today, I told the kids at halftime if we didn’t win we were done.”