Eagles Win East Conference Series Opener Against Napanee Raiders

Article By Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer & N. Schoonderbeek

Despite facing an unknown playoff opponent for the first time this season the Clarington Eagles continue to rack up victories.

The Eagles blanked the visiting Napanee Raiders 4-0 in a Provincial Junior Hockey League contest staged Thursday at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.

With the win the Eagles now lead their PJHL Eastern Conference best-of-seven championship series 1-0.

The Eagles advanced to their conference final by posting a 12-1 playoff record and winning the PJHL’s Orr Division crown.

Napanee required the maximum seven games and then some overtime to defeat the Amherstview Jets and claim the PJHL’s Tod Division title. The decisive match in that series was held this past Sunday (Apr. 21).

As for the Eagles, they had been awaiting their next opponent since Apr. 12, when they swept the Little Britain Merchants to capture their divisional championship.

“Good effort overall obviously,” Dean Baumhauer, the Eagles’ head coach said of his team’s performance on Thursday.

Baumhauer felt his charges were able to capitalize on a weary Raiders’ squad.

“I thought they looked like a team that had played seven games in their last series,” he said. “And then they had a long bus ride here.”

Napanee’s home rink is about 150 kilometres from the Clarington arena.

The Eagles’ cause was boosted thanks to a quick start out of the gate.

“We got the jump on them and we were up 3-0 after one,” Baumhauer said.

Eagles’ rookie forward Mitch Davies scored what stood up to be the game-winning goal just 78 seconds into the match.

Brady Darrach then scored his first of two goals on the night less than a minute later.

And Eagles’ captain Mitch Doyle scored late in the opening period to give his squad a three-goal cushion.

Baumhauer said he stressed to his charges during the first intermission the importance of also having a solid second period in order not to give the Raiders an opportunity to get back into the contest.

The Eagles heeded that advice and increased their lead to four goals by scoring the only marker in the period, Darrach’s second of the game.

Darrach said winning the series opener against the Raiders was obviously a confidence booster.

“That was a huge win to take the first game,” he said.

Like Baumhauer, Darrach echoed the sentiment of the importance of the Eagles’ quick start.

“Getting three goals early helped us set the tone for the game,” he said.

At the other end of the rink Clarington veteran netminder Alex Lepizzera earned his third playoff shutout this season. Lepizzera, who is now sporting an impressive 13-1 post-season record, also lowered his playoff goals-against average to 1.41.

“Lepizzera, our goalie continues to show his ability and strengths to shut the door for us,” Darrach said.

Clarington won’t have long to enjoy its series-opening triumph.

Game 2 in the series is Friday night in Napanee at the Strathcona Paper Centre. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

“Obviously thinking that tomorrow is going to be a very tough game in their barn,” Baumhauer said. “They’re going to be a much better team than they were tonight. Napanee is a good team. They’ve got four lines, some mobile D and a good goalie.”

The Eagles will then host Game 3 on Sunday (Apr. 24). Puck drop for that one is 5:50 p.m.