PORT HARDY — Eric Kennelly rifled home a slap shot from the blue line early in the third period Saturday as the North Island Eagles midgets wrapped up the Vancouver Island Hockey League Tier 3 regular season with a gritty, 3-2 win over Comox at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.
Kennelly’s game-winner came on a glorified dump-in as he crossed the blue line ahead of his teammates in the opening seconds of the third period, and gave the Eagles (18-4-2 overall, 7-2-1 league) a 3-1 lead.
The score proved critical when the Chiefs answered two minutes later on a slap shot through traffic to close to 3-2. Eagles goalie Lucas Robertson and a strong defence did the rest as the midgets were unable to pad the lead against a team it beat 14-1 early in the season.
“In the playoffs, none of the games are going to be blowouts,” midget coach John Murgatroyd said. “Maybe it’s good we had a close one to get ready. You’ve got to find a way to win when you don’t play your best game.”
Murgatroyd did credit a strong effort from the Comox goalie, who kept his team in the game early when the Eagles dominated play and threw pucks at the net.
The visitors actually scored first following a scoreless first half, netting a wrist shot from the circle at 10:42 of the second period.
That seemed to wake the slumbering Eagles offence, which responded with goals from Justin Gelinas and Mitchell Walker over the final seven minutes of the period to take the lead for good.
The midgets will be off this weekend while the schedule is made for the playoffs, which begin the weekend of Feb. 5-6.