PORT HARDY — Brad Zealand capped a hat trick with the game-winner with 5:45 remaining as the Port Hardy Bulls outlasted the Neucel Islanders of Port Alice 7-6 in a wild commercial league contest Friday at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.
The Bulls (2-3) appeared to take command earlier in the final period, scoring three straight goals to turn a 3-3 tie into a 6-3 lead on Justin Reusch’s second goal with 9:51 left.
But goals by Brian Texmo, Greg Brieba and Mark Preston over the next three and a half minutes drew the Islanders even again, and Zealand’s conversion off an Andrew Laming assist was necessary to lift the Bulls to their second win over the Port Alice squad in as many weeks.
The Bulls never trailed, though the teams were tied four times and the hosts never led by more than a goal until the second-period outburst.
The shorthanded Islanders (0-2) had just seven skaters available, and relied on several Port Hardy loaners, including goalie Corey Bell and defenseman Steve Dugas, who joined the game in progress. Texmo was borrowed from the Port Hardy Warriors, who were idle for the evening, and several of his teammates whooped from the bleachers as he potted a pair of goals for the Islanders.
Laming and Jordan Campbell added goals for the Bulls in the win. Chad Mackenzie had two assists and Steve Verbrugge, Shawn Patterson and Laming added one assist each. Barry Wilson picked up the win in net for the Bulls.
Preston joined Texmo with two goals for the Islanders, while Dave Stewart and Brieba scored once each. Stewart and Rory Bondue chipped in two assists each.
The game was the only one in league play on the weekend as both the Warriors and the league-leading Port McNeill Ice Devils rested.