Article By Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
The Clarington Eagles once again find themselves on quite the roll.
The Eagles registered a convincing 6-0 victory over the visiting Uxbridge Bruins in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) contest held Thursday at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
It was the eighth consecutive victory for the Eagles, matching their season-longest winning streak they had put together this past October.
Members of the Clarington squad, however, can be forgiven if they were unaware of the exact details of their latest streak. That’s because they had more than a five-week pause on their season, due to a provincial lockdown.
“I had no idea,” Eagles’ forward Dawson Manning, who scored twice on Thursday, said of the club’s current eight-game win streak. “It wasn’t talked about once.”
It was quite evident members of the Eagles were in jovial spirits throughout the match versus the Bruins, an outing in which they outshot their opponents 36-23.
“The boys are definitely having a lot of fun out there,” said Clarington forward Nate Stirling, who netted his ninth goal of the season in the third period. “It’s definitely good to be back to hockey, playing hard and getting those wins going again.”
Thursday’s contest was the first one at home for the Eagles since Dec. 30. The club had returned to action after lockdown measures were lifted with a 3-1 road victory over the Little Britain Merchants last Saturday.
“We came together really well early when we came back and started practicing,” Stirling said. “We got going hard and definitely in Little Britain we got the rust off and pulled off the two points, which was important. And then we came back here and laid an ass-kicking on these guys.”
Manning said his teammates are indeed rather upbeat these days.
“We’re kind of playing free, kind of playing loose,” he said. “We’re trying to have a bit of fun before the end of the year but still compete and look for that first-place seeding going into the playoffs.”
The Eagles are now sporting an 18-5-0-2 record and are three points ahead of the second-place Merchants following Thursday’s triumph.
Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer said there were several positives from the match against Uxbridge, including the play of rookie forward Leyton Aitken, who scored a highlight reel, shorthanded goal to give his side a 3-0 advantage in the second period.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Baumhauer said. “He’s an energy bunny. He’s 120 pounds soaking wet and he brings it every night.”
For the record, Aitken is listed as being 140 pounds.
Though his charges didn’t allow a single goal against Uxbridge, Baumhauer wasn’t entirely happy. Most specifically, he wasn’t pleased his side did not capitalize on any of its powerplay opportunities.
“If we don’t get it going it’s going to hurt us in the playoffs,” Baumhauer said of the club’s lackluster PP. “We had a four- and 5-minute powerplay and we didn’t get any good looks.”
Sounding like broken records, however, both Manning and Baumhauer had nothing but praise for Clarington goaltender Alex Lepizzera, who registered his fifth shutout of the season and is now sporting a 1.25 goals-against average.
“Unreal,” Manning said. “You can’t say anything else about that guy. He just blows you out of the water every time with some of those saves he makes.”
Baumhauer echoed this sentiment.
“Lepy gives us a chance every game, let’s face it,” he said. “He’s the most competitive player on either side every night. So, every game we have a chance to win. Even if we’re slow out of the gate he can wake us up. He’ll come in and tell the boys to get their heads out of their ass, no problem. He doesn’t have a problem doing that.”
The Eagles are now off until next Thursday (Feb. 17) when they host the North Kawartha Knights. Game time is 7:20 p.m.