Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by R. Mansfield
They needed that one.
The Clarington Eagles had been in a bit of a funk recently. Coach Dean Baumhauer hoped his troops had turned the page last Saturday when they grinded out a victory over Little Britain to snap a two-game losing streak. Instead, they followed it up with a lacklustre effort in Lakefield Tuesday evening, falling to the Chiefs 2-1.
Clarington needed a strong response Thursday at Rickard Arena when they hosted the second place Georgina Ice. A Georgina win would have put the Ice in a good position to knock the Eagles off their perch atop the Orr division standings.
Baumhauer and his staff addressed his team’s recent struggles prior to Thursday’s battle. “We’re used to walking into rinks over the past two years with an almost guaranteed 1-0 lead through intimidation and being the big dog in the yard. But teams aren’t afraid of us anymore,” said Dean. “Opponents have been outworking us lately. Uxbridge and Georgina feel, probably rightfully so, that they can catch us. We talked about needing to dig down and play simple. Don’t cheat the game, play north/south hockey. Play for the guy sitting beside you on the bench and go hard every shift.”
Clarington did not get out to the start they had hoped for. The Ice built a 3-0 lead early in the second period, chasing starter Aiden Leger from the crease in the process.
Given their recent struggles, one might have expected it to be a long night for the Eagles. As it turns out, they were just a little slow getting started!
Big winger Jordan Shaw, who has had the hot hand recently despite the team’s struggles, found himself skating alongside Trevor Urquhart and Kyle Smith on the top line in the absence of Adam Klaas. Klaas, the usual winger on the top forward unit, missed Thursday’s contest to rest a nagging injury.
The injury necessitated line shuffling paid off for Clarington. Two minutes into the second period, Shaw took a neutral zone pass from Urquhart before gaining the blueline. He faked a drop pass before snapping a wrist shot past the frozen Georgina goalkeeper. “Klaas has been so productive for us all season, so I needed to step up and play the way he did,” said Jordan. “Luckily, I was able to get us on the scoreboard and get things rolling.”
Five minutes after the Shaw marker, rookie Brock Mathieson broke in alone and tucked the puck in for his seventh of the season.
And the Eagles just kept coming…
Urquhart tipped in a Ryan Hall point shot less than a minute after Mathieson’s tally to even the score at three.
The relentless Clarington forecheck continued to keep the Ice hemmed in their own end for a good portion of the second period, eventually leading to an Eagles powerplay. Defenseman Cole Williamson one-timed a cross ice feed from Kolby Poulin on the man-advantage for the go-ahead goal just past the 10-minute mark.
Then, with the Eagles rolling and Georgina still on their heels, captain Mitch Davies banged in a Trent Gaylor rebound for what stood up as the eventual game winner.
Georgina would get one back on a deflected point shot before the period was over to narrow the Clarington lead to 5-4, but that’s as close as they would get.
Smith added a shorthanded empty net goal with 30 seconds to play to secure the hard-fought victory.
“Great character by our guys to put up five in the second period,” said Baumhauer after the game. “We had a huge 5-on-3 penalty kill. And in the third period we looked like the teams I’m used to coaching…putting pucks deep, managing the play, and playing smart. I loved our effort. I didn’t think anybody had a bad game tonight, and that hasn’t been the case recently. It was a nice way to close out the month.”
“It’s good we were able to show some resilience,” added overage forward Kolby Poulin, who factored into the comeback with three assists on the evening. “It’s good to show this early in the season that we weren’t going to just phone it in after going down 3-0. It drove us to compete harder. Tonight wasn’t just any other game to us, and it showed in our effort.”
The Eagles will be looking to keep the positive momentum going when the host the North Kawartha Knights this Thursday at Rickard Arena. They will then travel to Keswick for a rematch with the Ice Friday evening at the Ice Palace.