Article by I. Schoonderbeek & N. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer & N. Schoonderbeek
Two down, two to go…
The Clarington Eagles took a commanding two-game lead in their best-of-seven conference final series against the Panthers in Port Hope on Saturday evening. A large contingent of Eagles fans made the trip down highway 401 to cheer their team on as they defeated their hosts 5-2.
Speedster Kolby Poulin got the Eagles rolling just under 12 minutes into the first period. Poulin took a breakaway pass from Mitch Davies and buried a high shot over the goalie’s glove for his eighth goal of the post-season.
“Mitch fed me a great pass, and I found some space behind (Tyler) McGarvey and got in the clear,” said Poulin with a grin. “I’ve played with McGarvey my whole life, so I’ve had lots of experience going at him in practices.”
Port Hope drew even just under a minute later with a powerplay goal.
After a relatively even first period that saw the Panthers hold a 10-9 shots-on-goal advantage, the Eagles came out flying in the second.
Two minutes later, Dawson Manning centered a pass to Leyton Aitken in the slot from below the goal line. Aitken buried his fifth of the year to extend the Eagles lead to 3-1.
Midway through the period, the Panthers pulled the game back within one with a 2-on-1 rush.
But the Eagles kept on pushing. Just past the 13-minute mark, a Carter Watkins pass attempt on a 2-on-1 rush was a little too far ahead of Poulin and ended up in the corner. Poulin stayed on the puck and found a wide-open Connor Davies trailing the play. Davies roofed a shot over the goaltender’s blocker into the top of the goal for his team-leading 11th of the playoffs.
Connor Davies’ goal in front of a fired up Eagles’ crowd:
Mitch Davies extended the lead to 5-2 late in the second when he backhanded a shot from the slot through the surprised Port Hope netminder.
With the Eagles holding a commanding three-goal lead and dominating play in the third period, things began to get a little chippy.
Just past the 13-minute mark of the third, Eagles’ defenseman Bryson Kelloway stepped into a Port Hope skater who entered the Clarington zone with his head down. The clean open ice hit levelled Kelloway’s opponent, who had to be assisted off the ice. This drew the attention of multiple Panthers’ skaters who tried to engage the towering defenseman in a fight. Kelloway wisely declined all offers, knowing an automatic suspension would accompany any extra-curricular activities at that stage of the game.
Later in the third, Poulin was assessed a 5-minute major for head contact, which unfortunately for the Eagles will also carry an additional suspension. Several other ejections occurred throughout the remainder of the period.
The three-goal lead would hold up for the remainder of the game for a 5-2 Eagles victory.
“It’s going to be tough losing Poulie for a bit,” said Connor Davies after the game. “We’ve been rolling. The chemistry just seems to be there right now with Mitch. Everything is clicking. Poulie found me with a great pass today and right now the net is looking big! Hopefully we can just keep rolling. We’re two wins away from our goal from the start of the year and we’re almost there now.”
“Tonight was a good effort,” said head coach Dean Baumhauer. “We knew what to expect when we stepped on the ice. We know we got a little lucky to win game one. But we also know that they run a short bench. Their fourth line doesn’t play; they don’t play six defensemen. I knew we were going to be better today. We tightened things up and did a good job keeping their better skaters under control.”
<NOTE: We have removed a section of this story per an order from the PJHL>
The teams have a very short turn-around between games, as the Panthers make the return trip to Bowmanville today (Sunday) for game three at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex. Note: Puck drop for Sunday’s game is 4:25 p.m.
Not only did the Eagles take the victory in game two, but they also took Port Hope’s money! The coaching staff kicked in together on some 50/50 tickets before the game and took home over $600. Hope the bartenders at Frosty John’s Pub are prepared for them!
Fun fact…All seven goals scored in Saturday night’s game were scored by former Clarington AAA Toros players. The relationship between the Toros and the Eagles is a strong one. “There’s a lot of Toros alumni. Lots of local kids, which is nice to see,” said Rick Poulin, chair of the Clarington AAA Toros and father of current Eagles player Kolby Poulin and Eagles alumnus Brett Poulin.