Article By Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer
Thanks to another five-goal victory the Clarington Eagles are now in the driver’s seat in their playoff series against the North Kawartha Knights.
Clarington defeated the visiting Knights 6-1 in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) contest held on Thursday at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
With that victory the Eagles now lead their best-of-seven PJHL Orr Division semi-final series 2-0.
Clarington had blanked North Kawartha 5-0 in the series opener two nights earlier.
“It’s a good thing going up by two (games),” said Eagles’ rookie forward Jordan Shaw, who was selected as the player of the game by his teammates. “I felt we started a bit slow in the first and then we picked it up in the second and third.”
The Eagles, who outshot the Knights 61-33, had numerous glorious scoring opportunities in the opening 20 minutes but led just 1-0.
Shaw, who scored a goal and added an assist in the match, said a pep talk from head coach Dean Baumhauer settled the squad down.
“I think when Deano came into the first intermission, he got the boys fired up,” he said. “He said ‘Boys, we should just relax. We’re up by one here and we should just play as we usually do.’”
Those inspirational words had the desired effect.
Shaw was also thrilled he was able to score his first post-season goal this season. His linemate Connor Davies had been setting up Shaw up for scoring opportunities throughout the contest.
In the ninth minute of the third period, after receiving yet another pass from Davies, Shaw turned on his jets once again, beat the Knights’ D, drove to the net and deposited the puck behind North Kawartha goaltender Owen Kennedy.
“We were doing that the whole game, Connor over to me and I was just beating them wide,” Shaw said. “And I was finally able to tuck one in. I got the monkey off my back. I hadn’t scored since the regular season so it felt good.”
Shaw and his teammates are also obviously happy they have been able to control the series thus far, outscoring the Knights 11-1 in two games.
“North Kawartha is a good team,” Shaw said. “I feel when they keep their heads together and they play as a unit they are a strong team. But once they realized that we’re not going to back down when they’re hitting and they’re going aggressive, they sort of flip the game and they play a little bit weaker and they don’t really keep up.”
The Eagles led 3-0 after the second period and netted three more goals in the final period.
The Knights scored their lone goal of the match with just 15 seconds remaining in the third period.
That was the only shot that beat Eagles’ netminder Tyler Ryan, who entered the game with just under 10 minutes remaining, after Clarington went up 6-0.
Clarington’s star puckstopper Alex Lepizzera stopped all 25 shots he faced in the match.
Meanwhile, Eagles’ rookie forward Leyton Aitken had an impressive outing, scoring twice and also earning an assist.
Aitken returned to the Eagles’ lineup, not having played since Game 3 of Clarington’s opening-round sweep of the Port Perry MoJacks.
Aitken was assessed a two-game ban for his involvement in a fracas against the MoJacks.
“Coming back off a two-game suspension, I was raring to go,” Aitken said of his Thursday night efforts. “Missing the first game of the series is tough but coming back I had that eagerness and kind of getting back in. I started off hot in the first period and kept it going with my line.”
Aitken was also able to maintain his composure throughout the match, especially when North Kawartha players were taking liberties with him and trying to goad him into penalties as well.
Aitken added he’ll in all likelihood continue to look the other way if Knights’ players continue giving him cheap shots.
“Every shot, I’m just going to keep taking them and letting it happen,” he said. “The more they do it, the more powerplays we go on and the more scoring chances we get.”
Though the Eagles now find themselves with a two-game lead in the series, Aitken realizes the importance of his squad coming prepared to play in ensuing matches.
“We can’t take them lightly in Game 3,” he said. “Every game is still going to be a battle. There’s no gimmes in this league.”
The series resumes on Saturday (Mar. 27) in Apsley at the North Kawartha Community Centre. The opening faceoff is set for 7:25 p.m.
The Eagles will then host Game 4 on Sunday (Mar. 28). Puck drop is scheduled for 7:20 p.m.
Additional Photos by Chris Archer: