Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Photo by C. Archer
The Clarington Eagles required overtime Friday evening in Uxbridge to defeat the Bruins 6-5 in their 2023-24 home opener.
Clarington got off to a much better start than they did a night earlier in their first game of the campaign. The forecheck created multiple scoring opportunities and drew Uxbridge into several penalties in the first period.
The visitors got on the scoreboard just past the halfway point of the first when Adam Klaas banged in a rebound to finish off a 3 on 1 rush.
Just 26 seconds later, the Eagles struck again when Klaas poked the puck out from the corner to Kyle Smith who beat the Bruins goalkeeper from a tight angle to go up 2-0.
The Clarington coaching staff can’t like what they saw from their club to start the second period. Turnovers and penalties led to sustained pressure in the Eagles end. Eventually the Bruins cashed in on a five-on-three powerplay when a screened point shot beat Clarington starter Aiden Leger. Uxbridge would score again on the remaining penalty to tie the game up at two.
With his team on it’s heels, coach Dean Baumhauer called a timeout to get his troops refocused. The timeout seemed to have the desired effect after a few shifts as the Eagles started to control the play once again.
Late is in the second, Smith slipped a check at the offensive blue line on the powerplay and fed a cross zone pass to Trevor Urquhart who was streaking towards the net. Urquhart made no mistake one-timing the feed past the outstretched Bruins goalie to restore the Eagles lead.
Clarington would score again on the powerplay with just 0.8 seconds remaining in the second when Klaas banged home a rebound in front of the net for his second goal of the night.
The Eagles appeared to be in control of the contest going into the third period. However, turnover trouble once again plagued the team. Uxbridge scored three consecutive goals caused by Clarington defensive lapses to take a 5-4 lead.
Those who follow the Eagles know they don’t go down without a fight. With three minutes to play, Brayden Hicks sprung Leyton Aitken on a breakaway. Aitken, showing he is close to being fully recovered from the knee injury that cost him most of last season, made no mistake tucking the puck around the goalie’s outstretched left pad to pull the Eagles back even.
The rest of the third solved nothing, sending the contest to a seven-minute three-on-three overtime period.
Leger came up big for the Eagles in the extra frame, making two huge saves from point blank range to keep his team’s hopes alive.
With just over two minutes left to play, defenseman Cole Williamson, who logged big minutes on the night, forced a Bruins turnover at the Eagles blue line that resulted in a long breakaway. Williamson missed on his initial attempt, but in the ensuing scramble the puck found his stick with the goalie down. He knocked it into the open net to secure Clarington’s second victory of the season.
“I missed on the breakaway,” said Williamson regarding the play. “The puck had bounced in the air, and I just took a swing at it and ended up batting it home.”
Williamson saw a lot of ice time with the absence of Ryan Hall who was unavailable for the game. “It feels good having the coaches trust me to carry that kind of workload,” said Cole. “It sucks not having Hallzy in the lineup, but the other guys stepped up on the back end too.”
“I liked our first period,” said Baumhauer after the game. “In the second we took some bad penalties and handed our lead right back. When you take bad penalties and you’re missing a couple key guys from the line-up, you’re in trouble. We had some bad turnovers in the third by some of our veteran guys, and I’m sure Aiden would like to have that fifth goal back. But the boys stuck with it. Aitken getting the game winner last night and another one to tie it back up for us today is huge after missing him all last year. Willy made it happen in OT starting with the breakaway.”
“We didn’t play great, but It’s good to get the win on the road,” Dean continued. “We need to get some more practice time in obviously. We take pride in being able to keep the puck out of our own net, so giving up nine in two games is embarrassing. Four points is nice, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Eagles are back in action Thursday September 21 in the nest when they host the Little Britain Merchants at 7:25 p.m.