By Sam Laskaris
It certainly wasn’t pretty.
But the Clarington Eagles managed to pull out a 3-1 victory over the Port Perry MoJacks on Thursday in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) match staged at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
With the two points, the Eagles improved their record to 9-2-0-1 but more importantly regained top spot in the PJHL’s Orr Division.
Clarington, which has earned 19 points, is now one point ahead of the second-place North Kawartha Knights, who are sporting a 9-3-0-0 mark.
“That’s what you call an ugly win,” said Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer.
But the Clarington bench boss was obviously pleased to get his charges back into the win column.
After fashioning an eight-game winning streak earlier this season, the Eagles had been unable to taste victory in their previous two starts, incurring a loss against the Knights and settling for a tie versus the Little Britain Merchants.
The Clarington side had to play hard up until the final whistle on Thursday.
The MoJacks, who have registered just a pair of victories in their first dozen matches this season, held a 1-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes of action.
The Eagles, however, scored twice within the opening five minutes of the second period to take the advantage.
For starters, Brent Lace, who is averaging a point per outing and has a team-high 12 points, scored his fourth of the season, a powerplay marker.
And then Jordan Shaw netted his fifth of the season, with what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
The Eagles added an insurance goal as Owen Maranin popped an empty-net goal – the MoJacks had pulled netminder Gavin Bradt in favour of an extra attacker – with just 87 seconds remaining in the game.
But even that wasn’t easy. Manarin’s original shot at the empty net hit the goalpost but he was fortunate enough to be first on the puck and make sure his second attempt made its way over the goal line.
The game was closer than what it probably should have been in part because the Eagles’ powerplay capitalized on just one of its seven opportunities.
“Our powerplay is what’s holding us back,” Baumhauer said. “Defensively we’re good. We’re good in net obviously. We don’t give up many goals. But unless we start scoring on the powerplay, we’re going to be in trouble against some of the better teams.”
The Eagles played the match without captain Mitch Doyle, a defenceman who also quarterbacks the team’s man advantage situations.
Doyle was out of the lineup serving the first match of a two-game suspension.
“Missing Doyle on the powerplay hurt a little bit but it wasn’t going when he was here either,” Baumhauer said.
Baumhauer singled out the play of veteran forward Dawson Manning, who earned a pair of assists on the night and was selected by his teammates as the player of the game.
Meanwhile, Shaw was chosen as the Eagles’ player of the game in a vote determined by a handful of fans.
“We sneaked out another one and coming off a tie and a loss, we needed that win,” Shaw said. “I feel that going into (Friday), we’re going to run off this high.”
Shaw was referencing the fact the Eagles return to action with a road contest against the Georgina Ice on Friday. The opening faceoff at the Georgina Ice Palace is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Shaw added he was pleased the see the team’s blueliners step up in the absence of their captain.
“Doyle is a big part of our team,” Shaw said. “Missing him was kind of tough but I like the way our D meshed together. Without him in the lineup they really showed they can do it without him.”
After Friday’s outing, the Eagles will be off until next Thursday, Nov. 18, when they host Little Britain. Game time is 7:20 p.m.