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Tie game ends Powell River U18 Kings' playoff hopes

Minor hockey club comes within one goal of advancing to next round
Noah Culos gets set to take a faceoff during a minor hockey playoff game between his Powell River U18 Kings and North Island Eagles in Port McNeill on February 11.

Powell River U18 Kings’ season came to an end on Saturday, February 11, despite a valiant effort in Port McNeill against Tri-Port (North Island Eagles).

The minor hockey playoff game ended 3-3, which wasn’t enough to move the U18s into the next round of Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association postseason play.

“I believe that our game in Tri-Port was one of the gutsiest team performances I have witnessed as a coach during my time in Powell River,” stated coach Neil Pukesh in a message to the team. “I also feel that it was a true representation of our entire season as we faced so much adversity with the onset of significant player injuries and reduced rosters while in the face of some tough competition.”

Team captain Braedyn Louie was helped off the ice five minutes into the game due to a knee injury and did not return. As a result, an already short bench due to previous injuries was faced with an uphill task, needing a win against the regular season pennant winners.

“Our players have faced this all season long and we adopted a ‘next man up’ attitude, and that showed on Saturday,” added Pukesh. “With a significant injury to our captain, our team responded, players played different roles, and collectively they stepped up with a no-quit attitude, which translated into a brilliant game against the toughest team in the league.”

After a scoreless first period, Tri-Port went ahead 1-0 three minutes into the second period. Quinn Carlson answered for the Kings, tipping in a Jeremy Pukesh shot from the point on a power play at the 13:55 mark to even the score at one goal apiece.

Goaltender Josh McCormick made several huge saves to keep the game tied heading into period three, but the home team struck quickly in the final frame, scoring twice in just over a minute early on to take a 3-1 lead.

Kings’ forward Dreydan Harris changed the momentum with a breakaway goal with 15:27 remaining on the game clock, then Derek Kahn set up Evan Piniewski, who scored with a quick shot to tie the game 3-3.

Powell River pushed for the go-ahead goal with McCormick on the bench for an extra attacker, but were unable to find the back of the net again before time ran out.

“The result of our tie game versus Tri-Port wasn’t enough to push us through to the next round of playoffs, so we have been officially eliminated,” stated Pukesh. “While we fell short on the scoreboard and ran out of time, the coaches and I are proud of how we finished with such a hard-fought game.

“As I told the players at the beginning of the season, you don’t build good skills through effortless learning, and I can honestly say that our experience this year has helped build many great skills amongst our team. We, as coaches, are proud of how the players competed all season long.”

The three-team round-robin to determine which two teams advanced to the next round ended with Tri-Port on top with a win and a tie, Oceanside second with one win (over Powell River) and one loss (to Tri-Port), and Powell River third with one loss and one tie.

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