Article by Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
It remains to be seen how long they will stay there.
But even though there’s a chance it might only be for about 24 hours, the Clarington Eagles regained first place in the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s Orr Division on Friday.
The Eagles moved one point ahead of the idle Little Britain Merchants thanks to a 4-0 road victory over the Uxbridge Bruins.
With the two points it secured from the match, staged at the Uxbridge Arena and Community Centre, Clarington improved its record to 21-6-0-2.
The Eagles, who have three regular season contests remaining, now have 44 points, one more than the 21-6-0-1 Merchants.
Little Britain, however, has played one less game. And the Merchants are in action on Saturday, against the North Kawartha Knights.
Both Clarington and Little Britain are also in action on Sunday. Thus, the squad atop the standings on Sunday night could conceivably end up finishing first at the conclusion of regular season play.
“It feels good to be back in first place,” said Eagles’ rookie forward Jake Lemere, who scored his fifth goal of the season in the third period on Friday.
Lemere was also pleased to return to the Clarington lineup and contribute to the club’s offence. He had been a healthy scratch one night earlier in the Eagles’ 4-1 triumph over the visiting Lakefield Chiefs.
Lemere realized he needed to step up his personal efforts.
“I didn’t feel like I was playing my game personally,” he said of his recent play. “I felt I was letting down the guys a bit.”
The entire Eagles’ roster put in a more inspired effort than they had displayed on Thursday.
Clarington defenceman Mitch Doyle, the club’s captain, got the ball rolling early for his squad scoring a pair of first-period goals.
“He was unreal,” fellow blueliner Carter Watkins said of Doyle’s performance. “Before the game he said he had a sore shoulder. It didn’t look too sore.”
Lemere added Doyle was also sporting another ailment but that didn’t seem to hinder him either.
“He blocked a shot off his foot the night before and had a big welt on it,” Lemere said. “But he definitely played well. He’s our captain and he set the tone for us.”
As has been the case many other nights this season, Eagles’ netminder Alex Lepizzera also had a phenomenal outing.
Seeing a bit more rubber than he’s accustomed to most evenings, Lepizzera turned aside all 39 shots he faced to secure his seventh shutout of the season.
Meanwhile, Eagles’ rookie forward Nate Stirling hit the double-digit mark, scoring his 10th goal of the season late in the second period.
Watkins said there’s not much talk in the Clarington dressing room about finishing atop the divisional standings. But it’s obviously something the Eagles would love to do.
“We have to win our last three games and hope Little Britain slips up somewhere,” he said.
The Clarington club returns to action on Sunday, Feb. 27. It’s the only Sunday night home regular season match the Eagles have this season.
The North Kawartha Knights will provide the opposition for the game, which will be staged at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
The opening faceoff is set for 7:20 p.m.
This contest had originally been scheduled for Feb. 17 but was postponed due to inclement weather.
Additional photos by Chris Archer: