Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer
The Clarington Eagles keep on flying.
The Junior ‘C’ squad won their third straight game Thursday evening at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex, defeating the Little Britain Merchants 4-1.
This was not the same Merchants squad Clarington trounced 7-1 in their first meeting earlier this month.
Despite having only one victory so far this season, the Merchants brought a much stronger defensive effort Thursday. That, combined with a solid performance in the crease from goaltender Joseph Clark meant Clarington had their work cut out for them.
After a scoreless first period, Little Britain opened the scoring five minutes into the second. The Merchants cashed in on a 5-on-3 powerplay advantage, beating Eagles starter Aiden Leger on a screened point shot.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little “puck-luck” for a team to kick their offence into gear. Late in the second on what appeared to be a harmless looking play, Trevor Urquhart dropped a pass to Kyle Smith on the offensive boards. Smith quickly spun and directed a shot towards the Merchants’ net that fooled the surprised goaltender short side to even the score at 1-1.
When you’re hot, you’re hot! For Smith, the tally was his team-leading 12th of the season and eighth over the past three games.
Early in the third period defenceman Cole Williamson, who played a strong game at both ends of the ice, scored the go-ahead goal on a point shot through a screen from Urquhart and Smith.
Williamson later added an insurance marker for the Eagles, taking a defensive zone pass from Ryan Hall and rushing end-to-end before toe-dragging a Little Britain defender and snapping a shot short side from the hash marks.
Rookie Brock Mathieson added an empty-net goal to cement the Eagles victory.
Leger stopped 19 of 20 shots to pick up his sixth victory of the season for the Eagles.
“I thought Leger was really good between the pipes tonight,” said coach Dean Baumhauer. “He made some big saves for us. Especially when the score was 0-0 and the first bunch of shots he faced were on the powerplay…that’s tough.”
A light game schedule recently combined with a starter rotation with Oliver Webster meant this was Leger’s first game action in 12 days. Long periods of inactivity can make it difficult for goaltenders to stay sharp and game ready. Leger appeared comfortable and confident all night, playing well positionally and making some athletic saves at various points in the contest.
“We’ve had some big breaks in the schedule,” said Aiden. “I feel like I’m starting to come into stride. I feel like the puck has just been hitting me the last few games. It has felt easy, especially with the defensive core we have. They block a lot of shots. I just need to focus on the ones that come through.”