Article By Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
The Clarington Eagles will have an opportunity to win another championship on home ice this Thursday.
The Eagles won their first playoff crown earlier this month when they captured the Orr Division of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL).
The Clarington squad is now in the midst of its PJHL East Conference championship series versus the Napanee Raiders.
Thanks to a 4-0 triumph on Tuesday, in a match staged at the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee, the Eagles now find themselves with a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.
Clarington can wrap up the series at home, with another victory in Game 5. This Thursday tilt, which will be staged at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex, has an opening faceoff set for 7:20 p.m.
The Eagles and Raiders battled through a scoreless opening period on Tuesday.
“I didn’t think we started outstanding,” said Clarington head coach Dean Baumhauer. “I think both teams were gripping the sticks too tight.”
The Eagles, however, managed to score three quick goals early in the second period to take command of the game.
The Eagles found themselves dominating the rest of the contest. Napanee, which was outshot 32-21 in the game, only managed five shots on goal in the middle frame and just two shots in the final 20 minutes.
Clarington’s star netminder Alex Lepizzera picked up his fourth shutout of the playoffs.
“We were winning puck battles and we were just putting pucks past their defencemen,” Baumhauer said.
Manning’s second goal of the night, with slightly more than three minutes remaining in the third, provided the Eagles with a 4-0 lead.
Clarington’s bench boss certainly liked Game 4 much better than the team’s last outing, in Game 3 at home this past Sunday, a match the Eagles lost 4-2.
“If we play like we did tonight, I think we can finish off the series on home ice,” he said. “But I don’t think Napanee is going to lay down for us.”
Shaw’s goal on Tuesday, just his second of the post-season, was a huge relief for himself.
That’s because Baumhauer has been pleading for some better consistency from Shaw and his linemates, Manarin and Hayes Bell.
“Our line definitely stepped up,” Shaw said.
Manarin’s goal was his third of the playoffs. As for Bell, he earned a pair of assists on the night, thus doubling the two points he had collected in his first 13 playoff appearances this season.
Shaw was pleased his marker got the ball rolling for the Eagles on Tuesday.
“After that we were connecting as a team,” he said.
Clarington is currently sporting a 15-2 post-season mark.
“It was a good response to the last game we had,” Bell said.
Bell was obviously also happy that it was his line that broke the ice and got the Eagles onto the scoreboard early in the second period on Tuesday.
And he wasn’t surprised to see the Eagles outclass their opponents for the remainder of the match.
“We built off of that,” Bell said of Clarington’s first goal. “Once we get going, not too many teams can get into our zone.”