Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Photos by C. Archer & N. Schoonderbeek
The Clarington Eagles kicked off the 2022-23 regular season the right way Thursday night. The Junior C squad defeated the visiting North Kawartha Knights 7-5 in front of 288 fans at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
It was a festive atmosphere outside Rickard arena prior to the game. The team hosted a tailgate party featuring live music from local country and western band Shooter, a beer garden featuring Screamin’ Eagle beer, and a play area for kids. Proceeds from beer sales were split between the Eagles and Rotary club.
Nate Stirling scored the first goal of the season at the three-minute mark of the first period, tipping a point shot past Knights goaltender Duncan Branch to give the Eagles an early lead.
Two minutes later things took an unfortunate turn for the Eagles when winger Leyton Aitken hit a Knights defender on the forecheck and struggled to get to the bench. He would leave the game and did not return.
Jordan Shaw made it 2-0 Clarington mid-way through the period on another tip-in from the top of the crease.
The Clarington lead was extended to three just past the 16-minute mark, after capitalizing on the powerplay resulting from a Knights charging penalty. Jake Dupuis found the back of the net on a one-timer from the point, from Carter Watkins and Dawson Manning.
The goals started coming fast and furious from there.
A mere nine seconds after the Dupuis goal, the Knights got on the board when they beat Eagles goaltender Brayden Friedrich. North Kawartha would score two more within the next minute to draw even with Clarington.
Eagles captain Manning would restore the lead less than a minute later when his attempted centering pass somehow found its way into the Knights’ net off Branch’s pad.
The Knights would even up the score again with less than a minute to play in the period on a powerplay resulting from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Connor Davies.
Clarington opted to switch goalies after the first intermission. “I thought Friedrich looked a little overwhelmed and I didn’t want to just leave him in there and ruin him for the next couple weeks,” said head coach Dean Baumhauer. “We had a good chat with him. He’ll be fine.”
The Eagles got off to a good start in the second period. Shaw scored his second of the game for Clarington, snapping home a shot from the slot off a centering pass from Manning.
Tempers began to flare as the intensity and physical play picked up. Eagles’ defenseman Bryson Kelloway and a Knights player were each assessed 10-minute misconduct penalties following a scrum in the Knights’ end.
A few minutes later, Eagles rookie Dale Junkin and a Knights player were each ejected from the game for fighting after Junkin took exception to a trip near the boards.
North Kawartha got back within one late in the period with a rebound off the boards that jammed past Clarington goalie Carter Watson. But that’s as close as the Knights would get.
Adam Klaas scored his first of the season at the 10-minute mark of the third period to close out the scoring and the Eagles took the game 7-5.
Watson picked up the win in relief for Clarington, stopping 16 of 17 shots faced.
“I loved our start,” said Baumhauer when asked for his thoughts on the game “I thought we came out ready to go. We got up 3-0, but after that we had a real bad shift and let them right back in it. It’s a good early-season lesson for our guys. We got up 3-0 and we thought it was going to be easy, but a proud bunch of older guys on their team decided they weren’t going to make it easy for us. You can’t just coast when you get up three.”
“In the third, I really liked how everyone bought in on managing the clock, managing the puck, and we outperformed them on faceoffs. Overall, a good night, good crowd and nice to win our first one,” Baumhauer added.
“We came out flying and then when we let them back in it the boys had to pull together,” said alternate captain Connor Davies. “Overall, I liked our game. I like our intensity. It’s a good start. We’ve just got to keep getting better from here.”
The Eagles next game is Thursday, September 22 at home vs. the Port Perry Lumberjacks. Puck drop is at 7:25. Tickets can be bought at the door for $10, or $8 for seniors and students. Admission for kids 12 and under is free.