Eagles Post Four Consecutive Shutouts to Close Out 2023

Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by R. Mansfield

“Turkey legs” or not, the Clarington Eagles closed off December on a high note Thursday evening in their final game of 2023. The Junior C club soared to a 9-0 victory over the Little Britain Merchants, sending their fans home happy before ringing in the new year.

Prior to the drop of the puck, the Eagles honoured their four overage players from the 2022-23 season, Connor Davies, Dawson Manning, Carter Watkins, and Bryson Kelloway, in a brief pre-game ceremony.

“In my first year coaching the Eagles, we only had five returning players, and Watty, Connor, and Dawson were all part of that first group of new kids that started with me,” said head coach Dean Baumhauer. “The team record over their years with us tell you what kind of players they were and what kind of people they are more importantly…they’re all good young men. It’s nice for their families to get to come back and experience that.”

Clarington jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Kyle Smith and Leyton Aitken, outshooting the Merchants 18-5 in the process.

The second period brought more of the same, with the Eagles continuing to dominate play and outshooting the visitors 14-6. Clarington found the back of the net four more times in the frame on tallies by Adam Klaas, Everitt Corneil, Ethan Schoonderbeek and Aitken with his second of the evening.

Trent Gaylor, Brayden Hicks and Klaas added third-period markers for Clarington, who recorded their fourth consecutive shutout and fifth in six games during December.

Despite the lopsided score, the Eagles’ play was not overly sharp throughout the game…a point echoed by Baumhauer afterwards. “It was pretty sloppy and that was to be expected,” said Dean. “The boys have been enjoying the holidays. We had a couple of lines not going, but I don’t care today. It’s two points, and we’ve got Lakefield and Little Britain to focus on next week. We had a really good month of December, and I was very happy with the two games before Christmas. We’ve got less than 20 games left in the new year and we’ve got to start getting ready. We’ve got our roster intact, and I think we’re ready to roll. We’re only going to get better.”

“I liked the Aitken, Mathieson, Bell line tonight,”. Baumhauer continued. “They had a lot of offensive zone time, and Bell was great on the draws. When you start with the puck and don’t have to chase for 20 seconds of every shift it’s an easier game. And when you’re getting offence from the back like we did today with a couple more goals from the D, that sure helps.”

For Aitken, the two-goal performance served as a weight off his shoulders. The shifty winger has been praised for his play over the past few weeks but has struggled to find the back of the net. Before Thursday’s outing, Aitken had scored just one goal over his last 20 games. “It’s about time!” said Aitken. “Over the last five or six games I’ve felt like I was getting tons of chances, and the puck just hasn’t been bouncing my way. Every slump comes to an end at some point. The team is starting to click and once that happens, we’re a dangerous group from the net out.”

Goaltender Oliver Webster continued his strong play between the pipes, stopping 17 shots for his third straight shutout. Asked when he last went three games without surrendering a goal, he responded, “Probably never…” with a grin. “It was a team effort tonight. The boys kept all the shots to the outside, so I didn’t have many difficult stops to make today.”

The Eagles will be looking to keep the Ws rolling next week when they host the Lakefield Chiefs on Thursday, January 4. They’ll then travel to Little Britain on January 6 to take on the Merchants.

We wish all Eagles fans and their families a Happy New Year!