Article by Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
It’s going to come down to the final weekend.
That’s when first place in the over-all standings of the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s Orr Division will in all likelihood be decided.
The Clarington Eagles still find themselves in the hunt for top spot after downing the visiting North Kawartha Knights 3-2 in overtime on Sunday in a match held at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
The Eagles needed those two points to stay within striking distance of the division-leading Little Britain Merchants, who handed the visiting Port Perry MoJacks a 6-1 setback earlier on Sunday afternoon.
The Merchants are occupying top spot in the divisional standings with their 47 points, courtesy of their 23-6-0-1 mark.
Clarington is just one point behind thanks to its 22-6-0-2 record.
Both the Eagles and Merchants have two regular season outings remaining.
Though they would obviously love to secure first place, Clarington veteran forward Brent Lace reasons its actually going to be post-season performances that are more noteworthy.
“At the end of the day you still have to beat everybody in the division to move on,” said Lace, who not only opened the scoring for the Eagles with a second-period goal on Sunday but also provided the key assist on the OT winner by Dawson Manning.
For Manning, who ended the match at the 2:14 mark of the extra session, it was his second goal of the night.
He had deadlocked the score at 2-2 with just over two minutes left in regulation time.
“It was really all Lacer,” Manning said, describing his game-winning goal.
Lace managed to attract two players towards him in the Knights’ offensive zone before sneaking a deft pass over to Manning.
“It was a wide open back door,” Manning added of his tap-in which secured the victory for the Eagles.
Manning was pleased to see his club stay right on the Merchants’ heels in the battle for top spot.
“It’s huge,” he said of the pair of points Clarington earned against the Knights. “We know we have to win our remaining games and hope (the Merchants) slip and drop one.”
Though they had fought back and earned a point by sending the game into OT, Eagles’ coach Dean Baumhauer realized he needed to shorten his bench right off the bat in the extra frame in order to give his side the best opportunity to garner a second point on the night.
“We knew we had to win,” Baumhauer said.
Clarington handily outshot the Knights 48-24 in the contest.
“It was a good game,” Baumhauer said. “They’re a good team and their goalie played really well.”
Baumhauer added he was also pleased to down the Knights as the North Kawartha squad could conceivably, if no upsets occur in the opening playoff round, end up being Clarington’s second-round opponent in the post-season.
Before the playoffs officially arrive, however, there is the matter of concluding the regular season first.
The Eagles return to action this Thursday (Mar. 3) and will square off against the visiting Knights once again. The opening faceoff is set for 7:20 p.m.
Clarington’s final regular season match will be next Sunday (Mar. 6) in Port Perry versus the host MoJacks. Game time at Scugog Arena is set for 2:25 p.m.
As for the Merchants, both of their final two matches are on the road, Friday in Uxbridge and Saturday versus the Knights.
Additional Photos by Chris Archer: