Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer
The Uxbridge Bruins have had the Clarington Eagles’ number all season. In the four games between the Durham rivals leading up to Friday’s tilt at the Bear Den, the Bruins earned seven out of eight possible points in the standings.
But this was not the same Clarington line-up. The Eagles’ management has spent the past few weeks refining the roster before the Christmas break, looking to add more stability and physicality to their game. It paid off Friday evening with a dominant 6-0 road win.
Trevor Urquhart got Clarington rolling five minutes into the contest, banging home a rebound on the powerplay for his 15th of the season. Despite outshooting the Bruins 18-9, the Eagles could only beat the Uxbridge starter once in the opening frame.
But early in the second period, the floodgates opened.
Two minutes into the period, Kolby Poulin carried the puck with speed through the neutral zone and turned a Bruins defender inside out before firing a hard shot along the ice through the goalkeeper. The tally served as a spark for the Clarington offence.
Just under four minutes into the second, the Eagles struck again. This time, winger Owen Manarin, who continued his strong play from a game earlier, backhanded a second rebound attempt from the slot blocker side to extend the lead to 3-0.
Less than a minute later, with the Bruins reeling, Kyle Smith shuffled a pass to Urquhart beneath the Uxbridge goal line. Urquhart walked out from the corner and snapped another shot past the besieged goalkeeper to make it 4-0 Eagles.
The scoring flurry would prompt a goaltending change for the Bruins, who were again outshot 14-6 in the period by Clarington.
The Eagles penalty kill would get a workout in the third. After Leyton Aitken found Cole Williamson for a one-timer to extend the lead to 5-0, Clarington would face two long five-on-three shorthanded situations.
In an impressive display of control and composure, the Eagles’ penalty killers largely kept the Bruins shooters to the outside of the zone. Any pucks that made their way to the Clarington goal were quickly gobbled up by Eagles starter Jude Rondina, who was sharp in the crease all night.
Nolan Matheson finished the scoring for Clarington late in the third with a seeing-eye point shot that rang off the post and through a screen.
Coach Dean Baumhauer was in a cheery, festive mood after the game. “Early in the season, they really took advantage of us shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit,” said Dean. “We would lose our composure, and they’ve got a good team over there that can capitalize on that. Our first and second periods tonight were excellent. We had a lot of offensive zone time and outshot them badly. In the third we took a couple bench minors, which can’t happen…we know that. But the boys battled through. All-in-all, this is a great way to go into the holidays.”
The new additions to the club were all factors in Friday’s contest. Joe Boice was once again a physical presence on the ice, and rearguards Everitt Corniel and Ethan Schoonderbeek did some excellent work on the penalty kill in the third period when the Eagles had to kill five minutes of five-on-three. “We’re deep, and now we’re tough to play against,” said Baumhauer of his new look lineup. “We’ve got six D and four lines that can play. And we have a couple guys out right now, so when they come back, we’re going to have some tough competition for playing time.”
No hockey team can expect to progress very far without quality goaltending. With Friday’s win, the Eagles now have three consecutive shutout performances between the pipes, and four in the past five games. “We just got back-to-back great games from our goaltenders,” said Baumhauer. “This is what we’ve been looking for from the guys in net all year.”
For Rondina, the start was his first with the Eagles since being reacquired from Orillia. “I’m more than happy to be back,” Jude said with a huge smile. “These guys make it easy on me. They’re blocking shots for me and clearing out pucks…I think Willy might have saved one for me in the third on one of the five-on-threes. I’m playing behind a great team here. There’s a lot of confidence in this group right now. You can just feel it in the room.”
Clarington now has a six-point cushion atop the Orr division standings heading into Christmas.
Eagles fans will have one more chance to see their team in action before the calendar year flips to 2024. The Little Britain Merchants will be in town on December 28 at 7:25 p.m. Why not shake off those Christmas turkey hangovers and head down to the rink for some hometown hockey!