Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer & C. Poulin
Three down, one to go…
The Clarington Eagles are now one win away from the PJHL Orr Division finals. The Junior ‘C’ squad pushed the Georgina Ice to the brink of elimination with a 4-1 victory at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex Sunday evening.
Borrowing from yet another favourite French expression, the Eagles are now looking to deliver a coup de grâce in game four.
Connor Davies continues to have the hot hand for Clarington. The scrappy forward opened the scoring for Clarington just past the 10-minute mark of the first period when he found the puck in the middle of a goalmouth scramble and tucked it past the Georgina netminder.
The tally was the Davies’ team-leading seventh of the post-season. “You can’t say enough about the leadership from Connor,” said assistant coach Jamie Showers. “It seems like right now the puck is finding him and he’s finding the back of the net.”
The Eagles thought they had increased their lead to two early in the second period when Kolby Poulin found Mitch Davies in front for a quick one-timer. The goaltender appeared to make the save, but slowly rolled back into the net along with the puck. The official blew the play dead before noting the puck over the Georgina goal line. After briefly consulting with the second referee, the no-goal call stood, and the Clarington lead remained 1-0.
That unfavourable decision came back to bite the Eagles, as they surrendered a three-on-one opportunity off the ensuing faceoff. The lone Clarington defender got a piece of the puck on the attempted pass across on the rush, but that only served to slow the pass up slightly and ultimately disrupted goaltender Marc-Oliver Robert’s timing. Georgina made no mistake in making Clarington pay to draw even at 1-1.
Owen Canini restored the Clarington lead seven minutes into the second. Canini took a breakout pass from Leyton Aitken and carried the puck through the neutral zone over the Georgina blue line. As he approached the top of the faceoff circle, he used the defender as a screen and snapped a shot just over the goalie’s pad.
The Eagles would make it 3-1 later in the period when Brady Darrach threaded a pass from the corner through traffic to Ryan Hall on the opposite point. Hall buried a perfect wrist shot for his fourth of the playoffs.
The game took an ugly turn less than a minute after Darrach’s goal when the Ice took exception to an Aitken hit in the neutral zone. The resulting melee led to the assessment of 48 penalty minutes.
Ty Harris was ejected late in the game for fighting when he came to the defense of teammate Nate Stirling who was on the receiving end of several crosschecks while he was down on the ice behind the play. Harris will miss game four due to suspension, as the tussle occurred with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Robert was fantastic in his first appearance in goal for the Eagles in the series. He stopped 31 of 32 shots enroute to his third post-season win. “Jude is hot right now, so I had to keep it going!” said Robert. “We’re both playing really well. I think we’re the best goalie tandem in the league. It’s good because it allows us to do things other teams can’t. We can switch back and forth without a drop off in play which comes in handy when we have a stretch like this with four games in five days. A lot of teams go with one goalie all the way through the playoffs. It’s good to have healthy competition. It keeps us sharp.”
It certainly wasn’t a pretty game to watch, which didn’t come as a surprise to the coaching staff. “It’s almost to be expected,” said Showers. “Three in four days is not something our group is used to based on the regular season schedule. But the boys stayed resilient. We kept the pressure on them and got up a few goals. From a defensive perspective, we’re being smart, moving pucks, and taking care of our own end first. We’re making sure the opposition has to earn their scoring opportunities against us.”
“I can’t say enough about our fourth line tonight,” Showers continued. “Owen Canini has been dynamite. He didn’t dress the first game of the series, but his play the last two games will make it difficult for anyone to take his spot in the lineup. Trent Gaylor really stood out tonight as well. He’s a rookie who’s been learning on the job all season and he’s shown good progression in his game. He has been really good on the forecheck.”
The Eagles don’t have much time to sit back and enjoy their victory. They travel to Keswick Monday evening to try to close out the series in game four. Puck drop is 8:00 p.m. “All around, it was a good team effort tonight,” said Showers. “We’ll enjoy it for about five minutes and then we’ve got to get ready to go for tomorrow.”
Thank you to all Eagles fans who contributed to the cram-a-cruiser food drive!
Thank you to everyone that came out to Cram-A-Cruiser for the #ClaringtonEastFoodBank at the @EaglesPJHL playoff game 3 at #RickardArena.
Puck drop was at 5:25, GO EAGLES! #WeFly #WillieWooForYou pic.twitter.com/vZvIVoUsaD
— EAST DIVISION – Durham Regional Police Service (@DRPSEastDiv) March 26, 2023