Article by I. Schoonderbeek & N. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer
There was a large crowd on hand in Keswick Friday night to watch the Clarington Eagles and the Georgina Ice face off in game two of their second-round series. At the time of the opening faceoff, patrons were still lined up out the door waiting to get in. Unfortunately for the Ice, the Eagles never allowed the normally boisterous home crowd to become a factor in the game. After all, #WeFly and #DefendTheNest are the battle cry of the Clarington Eagles, our very own nom de guerre.
The already tenuous association between the two teams continues to heat up after the Eagles called out the Ice for playing a suspended player in the first game of the series. “I happened to notice that one of their players was an ineligible player before the game as I’ve been tracking some accumulating penalties,” said assistant general manager Craig Wilcox. “I called them on it at the start of the first period. They continued to play the game with an illegal player.”
The contest was a much more competitive affair than the 9-0 thrashing Clarington handed the Ice the previous evening in Bowmanville. But at the end of the day, the result was the same as the Eagles walked away with a 4-1 victory to take a 2-0 series lead.
Clarington jumped to a 1-0 lead halfway through the first period. Jordan Shaw won a puck battle on the half boards and passed the puck deep to Hayes Bell in the corner. Bell quickly fired a shot towards the Georgina net that found the far corner past the surprised goaltender.
Georgina was not about to back down easily. The Ice got one back early in the second period, taking advantage of miscommunication in the Clarington zone to narrow the Eagles’ lead to 2-1.
Connor Davies restored the two-goal lead on the powerplay just past the seven-minute mark of the period. After a Mitch Davies shot trickled behind the Georgina goalie, Connor quickly jumped on the loose puck to nudge it over the goal line. The Georgina netminder animatedly complained to the officials of goaltender interference on the play, but the goal was allowed to stand.
The Eagles nursed their 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
The third was a messy affair. With multiple penalties being assessed to both teams, neither club gained much momentum. Connor Davies put the game on “ice” with 18 seconds to play when he fired the puck into the empty net from the Eagles’ zone with the Georgina goalie pulled for an extra attacker.
Jude Rondina was fantastic in a rare back-to-back start for the Eagles. “I’ve done a lot over the past two days to make sure I’m ready to go,” said Jude of playing back-to-back nights. “Normally back-to-backs aren’t great for a goalie. It’s tough on the knees and hips. But I took an ice bath last night and did some other things to prepare and I actually felt really good out there. I was excited to get this one going!”
It was Rondina’s first playoff experience as a visiting player in a building known to be hostile towards the Ice’s opposition. That didn’t seem to faze the Eagles puckstopper. “It was pretty obvious they were trying to get me off my game,” said Jude. “But it’s exhilarating! It makes the game fun! Being on the receiving end of it isn’t something I’m used to, but I know what I contributed to their team and this town while I was here, so I don’t take it personally.”
For the first time (other than due to illness or scheduling conflicts), head coach Dean Baumhauer deviated from the goalie rotation that has been in place since establishing Rondina and Marc-Olivier Robert as the final tandem between the pipes. “Both goalies played well down the stretch,” said Baumhauer. “We just thought with him coming off a shutout, coming back to play where he’s comfortable and expecting a big crowd, it made sense to go with Jude back-to-back. He was a difference-maker tonight. Frenchie will go Sunday.”
Baumhauer acknowledged his team’s performance was not quite up to the standard he expects of them. “We weren’t nearly as good as Thursday night,” said Dean. “After you beat a team 9-0, you knew they would give us a good response. They’re a good young team. As I’ve been telling our group all year, we only lose when we beat ourselves. We tried to beat ourselves tonight with a lack of discipline. We literally handed them their only goal, took too many men, and had three offensive zone penalties…that just can’t happen. But sometimes you win games when you’re not at your best. At the end of the day, we didn’t lose a period, and we grunted out a win.”
The Eagles played the game without the services of star forward Brady Darrach due to work commitments. “When you win and you’re missing the MVP of the division, it says a lot about the depth of our roster,” said Baumhauer. Owen Manarin and Owen Canini drew back into the lineup for Darrach and Dale Junkin.
“I thought Canini had a hell of a game. He played very responsibly all night,” Dean said. “When you get into the lineup you don’t want to come back out. We’ve got Darrach, Junkin, and Harris itching to get back in. That’s the beauty of having good depth. You have the luxury of giving guys some rest in a series like this where you’re playing four in five nights and are up 2-0.
The Eagles have Saturday off before they look to take a stranglehold in the series at home Sunday evening at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
Fans please take note: game time is 5:25 p.m. for Sunday’s game. The Eagles have partnered with the Durham Regional Police East Division for their Cram-a-Cruiser food drive collection. Please bring non-perishable food and donate generously.