Eagles Blank Canadiens to Win Series Opener in Ontario Championship Series

Article by Sam Laskaris / Media by R. Mansfield

Some might have called it a fluke goal. Or a garbage goal.

But Clarington Eagles’ rookie forward Brock Mathieson had a different take on his game-winning marker on Thursday night.

Mathieson scored the only goal as the host Eagles blanked the Lakeshore Canadiens 1-0 in Game 1 of the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s best-of-seven championship series.

Mathieson directed what at first seemed to be a rather innocent shot from inside the right faceoff circle in the Canadiens’ zone towards the opponents’ net. The puck hit a Lakeshore defender and went flying high up into the air. It then bounced behind startled Canadiens’ puckstopper Boe Piroski and into the net.

That goal, at the 9:48 mark of the third period, proved to be the only goal scored in the match, held at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.

“We were just battling all night for pucks,” Mathieson said of his line, which included Everitt Corneil and callup Owen White. “One just ended up finally bouncing our way. It hit off the defender’s skate and went up right into the back of the net. Just like we drew up.”

An ensuing hearty laugh from Mathieson, however, was a dead giveaway the play was anything but a pre-conceived plan.

“I saw it going up and I thought no shot that’s going in,” Mathieson said. “It bounced right into the back of the net. So, I was pretty excited about that. It was a lot of hard work before that play to get that bounce.”

Not many, including Mathieson himself, would have predicted he’d be the scoring hero on Thursday. The goal was just his second of the Eagles’ lengthy post-season.

Mathieson’s only other goal in Clarington’s 2024 playoff run came way back on Mar. 3, in the Eagles’ 10-0 thumping of the North Kawartha Knights during Game 3 of an opening-round, best-of-seven series.

Besides scoring the only marker of Thursday’s contest, Mathieson was pleased with the efforts of his line.

“We brought energy for other guys to build off of,” he said.

Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer was also rather happy with the performance from his fourth-line unit.

As the game was still scoreless and the third period was winding down, Baumhauer was preparing to start shaking up his lineup. A move he was prepared to make was to break up members of the fourth line.

“I said to my assistant coaches this is probably their last shift together,” Baumhauer said, a tactic he suggested moments before Mathieson’s goal. “And then we’ll start splitting them up.”

Baumhauer’s charges were able to thwart all of the Canadiens’ attempts to tie up the tilt in the second half of the third period.

Eagles’ netminder Oliver Webster made 22 saves on the night to earn his seventh shutout of the playoffs.

“It starts with Webby,” Baumhauer said of the Eagles’ success, not only on Thursday but also the past several months. “Webby has given us a chance literally since January to win every game. He’s been lights out.”

Baumhauer believes getting the W in the series opener will be a confidence booster for the Eagles.

“Overall it’s so important to get Game 1 and let them in the room think that they can beat this team,” he said. “It’s all about the mental side. Everybody is tired. Everybody is banged up.”

The Canadiens will host Game 2 on Saturday. That match will be held at Lakeshore’s home rink, dubbed the Atlas Tube Centre, in Belle River. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

The clubs will then square off for Game 3 in Clarington on Sunday. Puck drop is set for 5 p.m.