Article by I. Schoonderbeek & N. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer & Willie Woo
The Clarington Eagles started off their Orr Division final series in dominant fashion Thursday evening. The Junior C squad outshot the visiting Uxbridge Bruins by a 43-20 margin, paving the way to a 5-2 victory.
The game was played in front of the season’s largest crowd so far at Garnet B Rickard Recreation Complex, with 750 fans in attendance.
Despite the home side dominating play for the majority of the first period, it was the Bruins who got on the scoreboard first. A missed defensive assignment led to a quick opportunity in the slot for Uxbridge which saw the puck promptly snapped over the blocker of Eagles goaltender Jude Rondina.
The Bruins’ lead didn’t last long…
Clarington earned their first powerplay opportunity of the game 24 seconds after the Bruins opened the scoring. A mere 8 seconds into the man advantage, captain Dawson Manning tipped in a Cole Williamson point shot to knot the score up at one heading into the first intermission.
Owen Canini got Clarington out front early in the second. The winger won a battle for the puck in the corner and drove hard to the Uxbridge net. The Bruins netminder was able to stop Canini’s first two attempts on goal, but Canini would not be denied on the third from the edge of the crease.
Connor Davies scored what proved to be the game-winner late in the second. Davies found himself alone in front to bang in a rebound after attempts on goal by Jordan Shaw and Leyton Aitken were turned away.
Williamson scored his second of the post-season early in the third with a clapper from the point on the powerplay to extend the Eagles’ lead to 4-1.
Canini put the game out of reach late in the period with his second of the game, snapping home a one-timer from Nate Stirling.
The Bruins would add a late powerplay goal that found its way through Rondina from a bad angle, but otherwise couldn’t mount much of an attack against the stingy Clarington defense.
“The back end played outstanding tonight,” said head coach Dean Baumhauer. “We had a lot of blocked shots, and we didn’t allow their skilled guys to get in behind us.”
During one sequence late in the third period, defenseman Nolan Matheson blocked three shots during an Uxbridge powerplay. The second shot struck the rugged blueliner on the side of the foot. Matheson gutted out the rest of the shift and blocked a third point shot while in obvious discomfort, displaying the kind of grit and competitiveness that will be required for a long playoff run.
Baumhauer couldn’t be more pleased with the effort from his club. “That was a great first game,” said Dean. “I could tell our players had a lot of energy and excitement. They were all at the rink early and ready to go. Everyone bought in and was playing the right way. We had four lines going, and Uxbridge was having a tough time with our transition and cycle. Our best players were playing like our best players, and depth guys like Canini and Davies are continuing to step up in the playoffs.”
Canini was a healthy scratch in game one of the previous series against Georgina. He has been nothing short of outstanding since returning to the Eagles lineup, providing an energetic forecheck, chipping in with some timely scoring, and playing responsibly in his own end. “I didn’t like missing game one last series,” said Canini. “My linemates have made things easy for me since getting back in. I’m just trying to work hard and do the right things on the ice… just trying to keep things simple.”
Rookie Trent Gaylor was quick to credit Baumhauer for having the club ready to go after a 10-day break between games after sweeping Georgina in round two. “Dean is the best coach I’ve ever played for,” said Gaylor. “He’s so determined and on the ball with everything. He wants to win so bad! He provides that energy and encouragement in the room to give the boys a boost. You know where you stand with Dean every game, every shift. Everybody is expected to play hard, and everybody is held accountable.
Baumhauer and the Eagles won’t be basking in the glow of victory for long. The club travels to Uxbridge Friday for game two of the series at 8:15 p.m. “Uxbridge is a good team,” said Dean. “We have to be ready for tomorrow because if we take our foot off the gas, it will come back to bite us.”
The Clarington Toros U13 BB team celebrated their recent OMHA win with the Eagles last night, and then stayed to watch the Eagles play. Eagles’ defenceman Bryson Kelloway was an assistant coach for the team this season. Sam Cooper, an assistant captain with the U13 team, summed up coach Kelloway’s play during the Eagles’ playoff game. “I think he played pretty good. Except for that one penalty. He’s a little goon,” assessed Cooper. “But yeah, I like his play style.”