The North Island Bantam Eagles came back home to the Tri-Port after a triumphant weekend of playing down island, and they continued their hot streak by adding two more big wins to their pre-season record, pushing them to a perfect 5-0 overall.
The Eagles had a date with the Tier 3 Victoria Racquet Club Kings on Saturday afternoon at the Chilton Regional Arena in Port McNeill, and they got out to an early 2-1 lead in the first period thanks to goals from their Captain Tynan Klein-Beekman, and Ethan Bono. The Eagles’ Koen Harwood then scored in the second to extend their lead to 3-1 before the ice clean.
“I thought we looked flat in the first half of the game, and I wasn’t happy with our competition level, we weren’t winning the little battles we should have been,” said the Eagles’ Coach Ryan Handley. “A quick reminder at the ice clean of what I and the rest of the coaching staff expect from them, and we came out with a much better second half.”
The motivational talk clearly worked.
The Eagles came out of the dressing room ready to go and they scored four unanswered goals courtesy of Chelsea Noel, Klein-Beekman, Joey Grant, and Bono to secure the blowout win 7-1.
“It’s all about our competition level and accountability,” said Handley after the game. “This team is very talented, but they need to be reminded every now and again that it takes every shift of every game to stay at a high level — I’m happy with the outcome, but there’s still work to be done.”
The Eagles had a much sterner challenge the next day, with the visiting Tier 2 Comox Valley Chiefs in town looking to give the Eagles their first loss of the pre-season.
The Eagles once again got out to an early lead in the first period thanks to a nice goal from David Klatt, but the Chiefs Jordan Vincent answered right back at 2:54 to tie it up.
The Eagles’ Tyler Roper then took matters into his own hands after getting a nice pass from Keenan Saunders. Roper found the twine, giving his team a 2-1 lead going into the second period.
“I thought our first period was good, but we lost our way a bit in the second,” said Handley. “Our competition level was low, we took some undisciplined penalties, and we weren’t good emotionally.”
The Chiefs’ Keegan Slater managed to score at 18:08 of the second period to tie the game back up 2-2, and then Vincent struck again with his second goal of the game, giving the Chiefs the lead 3-2 going into the ice clean.
During the break, Handley told the team to “be accountable for themselves, work harder to get back on the forecheck, and get motivated.”
Klein-Beekman led the way for the Eagles after coming out of the dressing room, firing the puck past the Chiefs’ goalie Tyler Murray with 5:25 left in the second period to tie the game back up. The Eagles suddenly became “a completely different team in the third period,” said Handley. “They know that hard work and heart wins out in the end.”
With the third period just starting, Roper got the pass from Saunders again and he buried the puck past Murray at 18:54 to take the lead back 4-3.
From there, Bono took over and batted cleanup for the Eagles, finding the twine with a timely goal at 17:53 to give the Eagles a solid 5-3 lead.
With time ticking down, the Chiefs started to get desperate, and they blasted the puck at the Eagles’ goalie, Griffin Handley, as much as possible.
The Chiefs ended up converting off a beautiful passing play in front of the net, knocking the puck past Griffin Handley, who had been calm and steady between the pipes the entire game so far.
The Chiefs, in a last ditch effort to force a tie, pulled their goalie for the extra attacker and started to hunt for another scoring opportunity, but Bono intercepted the puck for the Eagles and fired it down the ice, notching his second goal of the game on the empty net.
Handley was feeling pleased with the Eagles’ performance after the game ended, while also praising the Eagles’ Captain Klein-Beekman for his leadership. “Tynan was very good on the ice and on the bench today, giving everyone support and constantly telling our group to keep pushing. There’s a reason why we chose him as Captain.”
He added the Eagles’ coaching staff had to push the team after the ice clean to “challenge themselves and dig deep — their results speak for themselves. It was a gutsy win, but they deserved it.”