Eagles Outskate Merchants Heading into Final Weekend of Regular Season

Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Meidia by C. Archer

The Clarington Eagles are back on a winning note after defeating the visiting Little Britain Merchants 4-2 at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex on Thursday night.

The team was looking for a rebound performance after a disappointing loss to a shorthanded North Kawartha squad four days earlier.

Dale Junkin got Clarington on the scoreboard in the first period. Junkin took a breakout pass from Connor Davies and carried the puck through the neutral zone with speed before fighting off a defender and sliding the puck through the Merchants goaltender for his 11th of the season.

Early in the second period, Brady Darrach opted to hold the puck himself on a 2-on-1 opportunity and fired a laser high blocker side to extend the Eagles’ lead to 2-0.

The Merchants were not about to fold up their tents and go home. Late in the second period, they took advantage of a scramble in front of the Clarington goal and poked a loose puck past a prone Jude Rondina to narrow the Clarington lead to 2-1.

Little Britain would tie the game at two 30 seconds into the third period. The Merchants picked off an errant breakout pass to quickly enter the Eagles’ zone. The Eagles were unable to get themselves organized before the puck was centered to a Little Britain forward who was left wide open in front of the Eagles’ net.

Mitch Davies restored the Clarington lead with what proved to be the game-winner when he tipped in a Carter Watkins point shot for his 17th goal of the season.

Darrach would add his second of the game and team-leading 27th of the season when the Eagles picked off a Merchants neutral zone pass late in the game. Darrach scored on the resulting breakaway opportunity.

“After how we played Sunday, it was really important that we came out with a good effort today and in the next two going into the playoffs,” said Darrach. “It was good that we could push back after they tied it up. Jude played great and kept us in it and gave us a chance to win.”

Rondina made 36 saves en route to his 18th win of the season. Rondina was honoured before the game with the PJHL Orr Division Player of the Month and Eagles Player of the Month awards for February.

“Tonight wasn’t perfect,” said head coach Dean Baumhauer. “We got a 2-0 lead and gave it back. But when we get into the playoffs that sort of thing is going to happen. We battled back. Mitch had a nice tip-in for the game-winner, and Darrach had a great game. When he gets the puck on his stick in the slot, it’s as close to a guaranteed goal as you’re going to get in this league.”

“We’ve got to get a little crisper in our own zone,” Baumhauer continued. “We were running around at times defensively. I also didn’t think our powerplay was anywhere near good enough. We need to be sharper and have better net presence and puck retrieval. But it was a good bounce-back win and a much better effort than Sunday night.”

The Eagles have two games left to close out the regular season. They travel to Apsley to face the North Kawartha Knights Saturday evening and then host Georgina at home Monday night at 7:55 p.m.