Article by Sam Laskaris / Photo by Chris Archer
The Clarington Eagles managed to get themselves back into the win column on Thursday.
And they did it in convincing style.
The Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak by hitting the double-digit mark in goals for the first time this season.
Clarington outshot the Georgina Ice by a whopping 85-36 count and cruised to a 10-1 victory in the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) match staged at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
Eagles’ veteran forward Brent Lace registered a hat trick by scoring twice in the opening period and adding another goal in the second frame.
Lace, who also earned an assist on the night, was pleased to see the Eagles’ offence explode. Prior to Thursday’s outing the most goals the Clarington squad had scored in a game during the 2021-22 season was in its 8-0 shutout over the Lakefield Chiefs back on Oct. 14.
“I was expecting it eventually,” Lace said. “I knew it was going to come eventually so it was good to see it happen tonight.”
Seeing his club earn the two points, however, was perhaps the most important thing.
“It’s good to get back into the win column, for sure,” Lace said. “And I think we’ve just got to keep building off of this game here and moving forward we’ve got to come and bring it every night.”
Unlike some other recent matches where they’ve had slow starts, such wasn’t the case for the Eagles versus the Ice.
Clarington outshot Georgina 30-12 in the opening 20 minutes and took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. The Eagles added four more goals in the second period and three more in the final stanza.
Eagles’ rookie forward Nate Stirling was the top point-getter on the night. He scored twice and was credited with three assists, resulting in a five-point performance.
Connor Davies also scored twice for Clarington. Also scoring for the Eagles were Leyton Aitken, Owen Manarin and Brady Darrach, who suited up for his first game with Clarington after he was acquired in a trade earlier this week.
Darrach had been playing at the Junior A level with the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Wellington Dukes this season.
“Brady looked good out there,” Lace said of Darrach, who scored on a breakaway and also earned an assist on Thursday. “He’s fast, (a) big guy and can shoot the puck hard. He’ll be a good addition to the team. Going forward I think you’ll see him putting up a few points.”
Another plus for the Eagles was the solid play of goaltender Tyler Ryan. The Clarington netminder had shone in some outings earlier this season but had struggled somewhat in recent contests with some additional workload as Eagles’ star puckstopper Alex Lepizzera continues to serve a five-game suspension for his involvement in a brawl last month.
“That one feels good for sure,” Ryan said of Thursday’s W. “The last few games I’ve let in some weak ones. But that one felt good to get the win for the team but also it feels great for the confidence.”
Ryan had an inkling the Eagles would fare well against Georgina.
“We came out the last few games a little flat,” he said. “I knew the boys were definitely going to come out flying in this game.”
Ryan added he’s confident his club can build off of Thursday’s momentum.
“We have everything we need in this room right now,” he said. “So absolutely, I think we can keep rolling on.”
Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer was obviously thrilled with the efforts from his charges in the lopsided victory, especially from the team’s last line of defence.
“Tyler Ryan made the saves when he needed to,” Baumhauer said. “He needed that for his confidence.”
The Eagles’ bench boss was also happy to see Lace have a productive night. Lace, who now has seven goals on the year, has had more than his share of scoring opportunities this season but has been challenged to get pucks into the back of the net.
“That was a big game for him because he needed to get going,” Baumhauer said. “That was good to see.”
Prior to the match, Eagles’ rookie blueliner Ethan Schoonderbeek was recognized for his recent play. He was honoured in an on-ice presentation for being the team’s player of the month for November.
Thursday’s outing also included a few altercations. Six players (three from each side) were ejected following some fisticuffs late in the second period.
Also, Georgina’s Wes Weir was issued a match penalty for attempt to injure late in the third period when he purposely fired a hard cross-ice shot into the Eagles’ bench area.
The shot hit Eagles’ captain Mitch Doyle in the head, who remained down for a lengthy period. Doyle, who was injured in the first period and had changed into his street clothes, was standing just off to the side of the Clarington bench in the walkway leading to the team dressing room.
With the win, the Eagles improved their mark to 11-5-0-2. With its 24 points, Clarington moved into a tie for second place in the PJHL’s Orr Division standings with the 12-6-0-0 North Kawartha Knights.
The Little Britain Merchants are one point up on the Eagles and Knights with their 12-4-0-1 record.
The Eagles are now off until next Thursday, Dec. 9, when they host the Uxbridge Bruins. Game time is 7:20 p.m.
Additional Photos by Chris Archer & N. Schoonderbeek