Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer
The Clarington Eagles advanced to the Orr division finals Monday evening. The first-place club hung on for a 4-2 victory against the Georgina Ice to complete a four-game sweep in their second-round series. The Eagles outscored the Ice 21-4 along the way, riding the red-hot goaltending of Jude Rondina and Marc-Olivier Robert.
Dawson Manning opened the scoring in game four for Clarington just under nine minutes into the first period. Brady Darrach carried the puck into the Georgina zone and dropped a pass to Carter Watkins. Watkins found Manning streaking down the left wing. The captain finished off the pretty passing sequence with a slick backhand goal.
The Eagles would nurse the one-goal lead into the first intermission, outshooting the Ice 15-7 in the process.
The Eagles dominated the second period with a heavy offensive zone presence. Georgina found themselves trapped in their own zone on numerous occasions, seemingly unable to break up the Clarington cycle.
The young forward looked right at home in the Eagles’ lineup, taking a regular shift and playing a responsible 200-foot game. “It’s an honour to play with the Eagles,” Stycuk said after the game. “Tonight was my second playoff game. The atmosphere was electric! I got lots of great feedback from Dean (Baumhauer). Everyone’s engaging with me in the room and on the bench and helping me out when I need it.”
Hayes Bell scored what eventually ended up being the game-winner for Clarington halfway through the second when his sharp angle shot found an opening through the pads of the Georgina goalkeeper. Trent Gaylor drew and assist on the play.
Georgina was finally able to find a crack in the Clarington defense seven minutes into the third period. A lost puck battle on the sidewall led to quick centering pass into the slot which was one-timed past starter Rondina in the Eagles’ goal.
Undisciplined play had been a concern with the Eagles’ coaching staff in recent games. Late in the third period, it almost came back to bite them. With defenseman Nolan Matheson already serving a 10-minute misconduct penalty, Jake Dupuis was whistled for interference with five minutes to play. Fourteen seconds into the penalty kill, Clarington lost another defenseman when Ryan Hall was assessed a two-minute minor for head contact.
The Eagles found themselves in a long five-on-three penalty kill situation with only three defensemen available. Georgina took the opportunity to pull their goalie for an extra attacker turning it into a six-on-three advantage. The Ice created several good scoring opportunities before finally beating Rondina with a low shot through traffic to narrow the Eagles’ lead to 3-2.
The Eagles were able to kill off the remainder of the second minor penalty, but they weren’t out of the woods yet. With 17 seconds to play, Manning was sent off for boarding, setting up another opportunity for the Ice to attempt to extend their season. The Ice pulled their goaltender again to create another two-man advantage.
Connor Davies was able to recover the puck from a scramble in the slot in the dying seconds and fire it the length of the ice into the empty Georgina goal to preserve the win.
“The series started off with a lot of mind games behind the scenes, so I had a little extra motivation to get these boys pumped up,” said assistant GM and trainer Craig Wilcox. “We had a huge win in game one. We worked hard in games two and three. We got off to two great periods tonight. Obviously, the third period is not how we want to close out a series, but we got the W and took them down in four straight. We’ll be ready for the next round.”
The Eagles now await the outcome of the other Orr division semi-final between the Uxbridge Bruins and the Little Britain Merchants. Uxbridge currently leads the series two games to one.