Article By Sam Laskaris / Photos by Chris Archer
The Clarington Eagles will be entering the new year on a bit of a longer winning streak than what they had once anticipated.
The Eagles concluded their 2021 action by eking out a 1-0 victory over the visiting Port Perry MoJacks in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) match held Thursday at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
With the win Clarington improved its record to 16-5-0-2 and bumped up its current winning streak to six games.
“The score didn’t dictate the game,” said Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer. “I thought we were convincingly the dominant team.”
Baumhauer added it was obvious many of his players had enjoyed themselves and perhaps relaxed a bit too much over the holidays. But he singled out rookies Mitch Davies and Leyton Aitken for their energy throughout the night.
“They were by far the two best players on the ice tonight,” he said.
Veteran Clarington forward Brent Lace was the only scorer on the night. His goal came at the 8:55 mark of the second period.
Meanwhile, Eagles’ netminder Alex Lepizzera turned aside all 20 shots he faced on the night to earn his fourth shutout of the season.
At the other end of the ice Clarington players found themselves squaring off against a new face. Samuel Moncada suited up for his first PJHL game with the MoJacks.
Moncada had been toiling at the Junior A level this season, splitting his time between the Collingwood Blues and the Haliburton County Huskies.
“He definitely stood on his head,” Eagles’ rookie forward Nate Stirling, who was credited with an assist on Lace’s goal, said of the Port Perry puckstopper. “We were able to beat him with the one and that’s all we needed tonight.”
Earlier this month the Clarington squad had thought it had played its final game of the year. Thursday’s match against Port Perry had originally been scheduled for Dec. 23.
But as a precautionary measure in light of the dramatic rise of COVID cases in the province, reps from both squads agreed to postpone the contest until the new year.
Following further discussions, officials from both clubs, however, were able to squeeze the game in on Thursday, in part due to January booking difficulties.
As it turned out, the Eagles still had a lengthy break between outings, a 13-day break since their 5-2 triumph over the Uxbridge Bruins back on Dec. 17.
With just a couple of practices under their belts since then, it was understandable that the Clarington side had a slow start against the MoJacks, who have had their share of struggles this season, winning just six of their first 25 games.
“The break definitely killed a lot of us,” said Eagles’ rookie blueliner Ty Harris. “It killed a lot of our legs.”
Harris added it didn’t take long though for his teammates to regain their form.
“It took about half way through the first period to get going,” he said. “After that we were all over them.”
Harris also said it was a plus to end 2021 with another W.
“The winning streak is going to continue until we don’t want it anymore,” he said. “And then we’ll just start it up again.”
With the two points it secured on Thursday, Clarington now has a three-point lead atop the standings in the PJHL’s Orr Division.
The 15-4-0-1 Little Britain Merchants are in second place but have played three games less than the Eagles.
The Clarington side is scheduled to play its first contest of 2022 on Jan. 6. The Eagles will host the Lakefield Chiefs in the game, which has an opening faceoff set for 7:20 p.m.