The semi-final showdown between the North Island Peewee Eagles and the Peninsula Eagles ended up a one-sided blowout of epic proportion.
The two teams faced off on Sunday morning at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill to see who would advance to the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association’s Tier 3 finals, and it was the Eagles who dominated Peninsula right from the very first whistle, with captain Lucca Stewart quickly getting the feed from linemates Jack Barrett and Zach Spafford and backhanding the puck through traffic into the net at 17:08.
The Eagles would continue to play well offensively for the rest of the first period, while also neutralizing any chances Peninsula was able to generate thanks to solid defensive tactics, most notably from Christopher Topfer and Maddy Jorgenson.
The hard work paid off at both ends of the ice, as Stewart got the puck off a Spafford pass and fired it home from the slot at 4:48 to make it 2-0 going into the second period.
After the intermission, the Eagles came out of the dressing room fired up and immediately started to dig for the puck right from the faceoff.
However, after back and forth chances at each end of the ice, Peninsula managed to get on the scoreboard at 15:30 thanks to a beauty of a shot from Adam Craig, cutting the North Island Eagles lead to one, but it was Barrett who got the pass from Spafford and roofed it top shelf past Peninsula’s goaltender Joshua Beaulac at 9:54 to reinstate the two-goal lead.
The Eagles top line continued to hunt for the back of Peninsula’s net from that point on, not backing down from the challenge in front of them whatsoever.
Spafford fired home a rocket of a shot from the slot at 4:43, Stewart converted from the circle with a wrister 10 seconds later to complete the hat trick, and then Spafford buried another goal top shelf with 1:14 left on the clock to make it 6-1 by the end of the second period.
With the game all but over save for the last 20 minutes, the North Island Eagles refused to let up with the pressure and continued to rain down fire.
Spafford scored off a tic-tac-toe pass at 17:40, Landon Turgeon ripped a shot top shelf at 10:30, Travyn Foster tipped in a point shot at 6:20, Spafford made a beautiful deke around the defence and flipped the puck over Beaulac’s shoulder at 4:28, and then Rylan Krawietz finished things off with a hard shot from the slot that found the twine at 3:47.
The buzzer mercifully sounded minutes later to end the onslaught, finalizing an 11-1 blowout victory for the Eagles.
After the game, head coach Dave Stewart said he was pleased to see all three lines scoring goals during the playoffs. “Anytime you get all three lines playing well you’re going to have success,” he said, noting that seeing the kids play as a team is “really gratifying” and “it starts with practice — we are seeing all three lines contributing in practice, working hard, and that’s carrying on into the games.”
The Eagles played in Tier 2 all season before dropping back down to Tier 3 for playoffs, which Stewart said was the main reason for the team’s success this year. “Playing Tier 2 during the season has forced the kids to step up their games, so now playing where we usually sit in Tier 3, you see our skill level is above some of these teams.”
Captain Lucca Stewart said playoffs have been “pretty good” so far, and that playing Tier 2 all season made them “improve a lot more” as a group. He said his favourite moment of the season has been “winning.”
Foster noted his favourite moment of the season was “making it to playoffs” and that he’s excited to get a chance at winning the playoff banner in the Tier 3 finals.
Krawietz said his favourite moment of the season was “hanging out with the team in the dressing room and hotels.”
The dynamic duo, Spafford and Barrett, both said their favourite moment of the season was “beating Peninsula.”
The Eagles will be back in action in a best-of-three series against either Kerry Park or Powell River with the playoff banner and a shot at provincials on the line.