Depleted Eagles Roster Edged by Host North Kawartha Knights

By Sam Laskaris

Though the Clarington Eagles are leading their divisional standings, they were the ones that were looking to pull off a mild upset on Saturday.

The Eagles hit the road to square off against the second-place North Kawartha Knights in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) contest but came up a bit short, losing 6-5.

The Eagles played the match, held at the North Kawartha Community Centre in Apsley, without seven of their regular players. They were all serving suspensions for their conduct in a penalty-filled 4-0 home victory against the Little Britain Merchants two nights earlier.

The Clarington squad was also without its head coach Dean Baumhauer, who was suspended for one game following Thursday’s battle.

Eagles’ assistant coach Chris Kerr took over the head coaching duties for Saturday’s outing.

To fill their maximum 20-player lineup against the Knights, the Eagles called up five affiliated players from various minor hockey associations.

“It’s not easy to go playing a second-place team when you’re missing so many guys,” Kerr said. “But our guys worked hard, weathered the storm and did the best they could.”

Kerr realizes the next couple of weeks will also be challenging for the Eagles since team players incurred suspensions ranging from a couple of games for defenceman Mitch Doyle, the Clarington captain, to an 11-game suspension for rookie blueliner Nolan Matheson.

“We’ve got a long road ahead of us,” said Kerr, adding Eagles’ netminder Alex Lepizzera, arguably the top puckstopper in the league, was hit with a five-game suspension.

Kerr added he was impressed with the callups the Clarington squad utilized on Saturday.

“The APs all played well,” he said.

One of those individuals, forward Ethan Vivian, a member of the Clarington Toros’ Under-18 AAA squad, managed to score his first junior goal.

Vivian’s teammate with the Toros, defenceman Lucas McLellan, also suited up for the Eagles.

The other APs who saw some ice time were forwards Mac Connelly and Matt Ulrich, members of the Central Ontario Wolves’ Under-18 AAA club and Newcastle Juveniles’ rep team, respectively.

Meanwhile, Noah MacDonald, a member of the Centre Hastings Juvenile rep squad, served as the Eagles’ backup goalie.

With the loss, the Eagles are now sporting a 10-3-0-2 record. With the W, North Kawartha improved its mark to 10-5-0-0 and the Knights now find themselves just two points behind Clarington in the PJHL’s Orr Division standings.

Eagles’ rookie forward Mitch Davies netted a pair of goals on Saturday, his fifth and sixth of the season.

Considering the talent of those Clarington players who were suspended, Davies felt his squad turned in an admirable performance.

“I thought we played well,” he said, adding the team’s callups didn’t seem out of place. “They’re all from different teams but we meshed well.”

Though he realizes his squad will also be missing key individuals for upcoming matches, Davies is confident his squad will return to its winning ways soon.

“I think that’s the toughest team we play in the next little stretch,” Davies said of the Knights.

Meanwhile, Owen Manarin, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Saturday, and Nate Stirling also scored for the Eagles.

Despite the one-goal setback, Stirling said his teammates have to feel good about themselves considering they had a depleted lineup but came awfully close to salvaging a point and perhaps even pulling out a road win against a tough foe.

“I think we took this as more of a moral victory,” Stirling said, adding he’s confident the Eagles will register some wins while some of their players continue to serve out their suspensions.

The Eagles were outshot 45-44 in the match. But the Clarington side never gave up, outshooting the Knights 16-7 in the final period.

The Eagles return to action this coming Thursday (Nov. 25) with a home contest against the Lakefield Chiefs.

The opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.