Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by N. Schoonderbeek & C. Archer
The Clarington Eagles are now only one win away from qualifying for the 2023 Schmalz Cup tournament. The Junior ‘C’ squad scored two third-period powerplay goals for a come-from-behind victory in game three of their Eastern Conference final series against the Port Hope Panthers Sunday evening.
After a scoreless first period, the Panthers broke the ice on the powerplay three minutes into the second. Connor Davies attempted to block a cross-ice pass on the play, but only got a piece of the puck. Unfortunately, Davies’ effort only served to slow the pass down and set up a perfect Port Hope one-timer that was blasted past Clarington starter Jude Rondina.
Jordan Shaw evened the score just past the six-minute mark when he slid a rebound on a shot that had rung off the post under the Panthers’ goaltender.
Just over a minute after the Shaw tally, Port Hope restored their lead. A turnover at the Clarington blueline led to a one-on-one opportunity for a Panthers forward who used the defenseman as a screen to beat Rondina.
The Panthers seemed content to try to protect their lead as the game progressed into the third period. They were successful in thwarting the Eagles’ attack until the midway point of the third when Port Hope forward Kieran Flynn took an ill-advised checking from behind penalty. Flynn was assessed a 5-minute major penalty on the play and ejected from the game.
The long powerplay gave the Eagles the opportunity they needed to get back into the game. After initially appearing to be a bit disorganized with the man-advantage, defenseman Carter Watkins hit Mitch Davies with a stretch pass that sent him in alone on the Panthers’ goalie. Mitch made no mistake, snapping the puck high over the goalkeeper’s glove to even the score at 2-2.
With three minutes remaining on the man-advantage, the Eagles still had plenty of time to work with. Just past the 14-minute mark of the period, they struck again when Shaw tipped in a Cole Williamson point shot for the go-ahead goal.
The Panthers had one last opportunity to even up the score late in the game when Clarington was assessed a bench minor for too many men with one minute to play. They generated several chances in front of the Clarington net with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, but Rondina and the Eagles’ defense proved to be up to the task.
Dawson Manning secured the Eagles’ victory with an empty net goal in the dying seconds.
Manning’s empty net insurance goal:
Head coach Dean Baumhauer gave Port Hope full credit for their effort in the game. “Port Hope had a really good game tonight. They worked hard and we couldn’t get anything going,” said Dean. “Our first two periods weren’t very good. We didn’t look very desperate against a team that had to play desperate. The five-minute major was a big turning point. We took advantage with a couple of powerplay goals and took the momentum from there. Sometimes you just have to grind out the wins. We dug in there tonight and now we’ve won 15 in a row. I’m proud of these guys.”
Rondina was excellent in goal for Clarington and stopped 32 of 34 shots to pick up his ninth win of the post-season. “The saves he made on their crease crash opportunities were huge,” said Baumhauer. “We needed that kind of performance from him tonight. He was our best player today. I know he wasn’t happy with his play in game one, but he got the W and he’s still undefeated since joining us.”
“Our D has done a really good job the past two games clearing the crease area and making our jobs easier in net,” said Jude. “It’s hard to make a save when you can’t see the puck. I couldn’t see the puck on their second goal tonight. But overall, the guys did a great job boxing them out and clearing away rebounds for me.”
Baumhauer was also pleased with the play of big winger Shaw. “We gave him a bit of grief in the room for the unsportsmanlike penalty he took,” said Dean. “But I’ll take his charging penalty every day because I’m asking him to be a more physical presence out there. His tip on that powerplay goal was huge for us.”
“It felt good to get the monkey off my back. Willy knows where to shoot, and I know where to put my stick,” Shaw said with a smirk of his game-winner. The hulking forward spent a lot of his offensive zone time parked in front of the Panthers’ crease. “The coaches have been on me to get in front of the goalies to block their vision. It’s been working obviously.”
The Eagles will have their first opportunity to close out the series at Jack Burger Sports Complex in Port Hope this Wednesday, April 26. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. We hope to see lots of Eagles fans in attendance to cheer the boys on!