Article By Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
Well the Clarington Eagles will not be registering a second consecutive series sweep.
The Eagles had downed the Port Perry MoJacks in a minimum four games in their opening Provincial Junior Hockey League playoff series.
And it appeared the Clarington squad just might take care of the North Kawartha Knights in a similar fashion after taking a 2-0 lead in its best-of-seven PJHL Orr Division semi-final series.
But the Knights have now made the battle more interesting after pulling out a 3-2 home victory over the Eagles on Saturday night at the North Kawartha Community Centre in Apsley.
Despite outshooting the Knights 41-18 in the contest, Clarington found itself trailing 3-1 with less than five minutes left in the match.
Veteran forward Brent Lace did cut the deficit to one with his ninth post-season goal late in the third period.
But the Eagles, who pulled netminder Alex Lepizzera in favour of an extra attacker in the dying stages of the game, were unable to net the equalizer to force overtime.
“We haven’t faced adversity in the playoffs and it was going to happen,” said Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer.
And for the first time in some time, Clarington’s bench boss wasn’t thrilled with the efforts from his charges.
“Not our best game, half the team were passengers,” Baumhauer said.
The Eagles played the match without a couple of key regulars. Veteran blueliner Carter Watkins was sick and was scratched a few hours before the contest. Another vet, forward Joey Cole, left the game early due to an injury.
And Mitch Davies, one of Clarington’s sparkplug rookie forwards, missed the match because of a charley horse after being hit by an opposing knee in Game 2.
“I look at being shorthanded as an opportunity for some other guys to get more ice time than they usually do,” Baumhauer said. “Some guys didn’t take advantage of that.”
The Eagles did open the scoring when defenceman Nate Baumhauer (Dean’s son) scored a powerplay goal in the sixth minute.
Clarington had its chances to extend its lead in the opening 20 minutes. The Knights took four minor penalties while the Eagles had none in the period.
But Clarington, which held a 15-4 shot advantage in the opening frame, scored just once.
“The boys came out a little slow and we just got unlucky on the powerplays that we were given,” said Clarington forward Nate Stirling.
The Knights scored the only two goals of the second period. And the North Kawartha club took a two-goal lead in the third period on a fortunate corner shot which beat Lepizzera after several Eagles’ players were caught on the ice during an extended shift.
“We just got an unlucky bounce in the end,” Stirling said.
The two squads will return right back to action on Sunday as the Eagles host Game 4 in the series.
The opening faceoff at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex is set for 7:20 p.m.
Clarington will also host Game 5 in the series on Tuesday (Mar. 29). Puck drop for that one is scheduled for 7:50 p.m.
Additional Photos by Chris Archer: