Article By Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
The Clarington Eagles kicked off what they hope will be a lengthy 2022 playoff run on Wednesday with a road victory.
The Eagles blanked the host Port Perry MoJacks 3-0 in their opening game of their Provincial Junior Hockey League best-of-seven series held at Scugog Arena.
The series opener was staged in Port Perry even though the Clarington squad had finished ahead of the MoJacks in the regular season standings.
Clarington ended up in second place in the league’s Orr Division standings while Port Perry placed sixth in the seven-team circuit.
The Eagles, however, still have home ice advantage as they are hosting the second and fourth matches in the series, and, if necessary, Games 5 and 7.
Clarington was clearly the better squad in Wednesday’s series opener, outshooting the MoJacks by a whopping 62-15 count.
The Eagles had more shots in the opening period (16) than the Port Perry club did all game.
“Obviously their goalie played well,” Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer said of Port Perry netminder Samuel Moncada.
Despite the fact they were controlling the play, Baumhauer was pleased his charges were not displaying frustration with the fact they had yet to score late into the second period.
“I thought we stuck to the plan and we didn’t unravel midway through the second period when it was 0-0,” Baumhauer said. “We weren’t getting frustrated. I thought we kept playing the way we know is successful.”
The Eagles were eventually rewarded when veteran forward Brent Lace opened the scoring with a powerplay marker via a pass from Brady Darrach with just under three minutes remaining in the middle frame.
Alex Lepizzera, who registered seven regular season shutouts, earned his first of the post-season by turning aside all 15 shots he faced in the Eagles’ net.
“Overall it was a good team win and Lepy made a couple of saves that he needed to on Port Perry powerplays in the first period,” Baumhauer said.
Lace added an insurance goal for the Eagles in the third period with his second of the contest. Like his first one of the night, that goal was also scored while Clarington was enjoying a man advantage.
“Good way to start the series, a road win, got to like it,” Baumhauer said.
“Both played real well,” Baumhauer said.
One disappointing aspect for the Eagles was that one of their key defencemen, rookie Ethan Schoonderbeek, was ejected from the match for his involvement in a fight. Since those fisticuffs occurred within the final 10 minutes of the contest, Schoonderbeek will have to sit out an additional match, Game 2 in the series, set for Thursday at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m.
Encouraging news, however, is that Baumhauer’s son Nate, also a defenceman, will return to the club’s roster on Thursday after serving a five-game suspension.
Schoonderbeek, who also earned an assist on Stirling’s goal, was happy to see his squad pick up the W.
“We had a solid start to our playoff run and came prepared and ready to play tonight,” he said.
“We had a solid performance in the offensive zone, obviously racking up (more than) 60 shots on net.”
Schoonderbeek is confident Wednesday’s result will bode well for upcoming post-season tilts.
“I think this really set the tone for our playoff games going forward,” he said. “We really came together as a group tonight and dominated our opponents.”
Additional Photos by Chris Archer: