Eagles win Nail Biter Against Port Perry

Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Photo by R. Mansfield

Eagles fans were probably not expecting a close contest when the Port Perry Lumberjacks came to town Thursday evening. But that’s exactly what they got.

It was a far cry from the outcomes of the previous matches between the rival clubs. Clarington had won the first five clashes this season, outscoring the Lumberjacks by a combined 34-5 margin in the process. Victory number six for the Eagles was not going to come as easy.

The Lumberjacks came to town with a new gameplan. They employed a trap system, slowing the Clarington attack through the neutral zone and boxing the forwards out in their own end to keep the Eagles’ shooters at a distance. At the end of the day, Clarington was able to battle through Port Perry’s tight checking and head the Frosty John’s Pub after the game with two points from a 2-1 win.

Despite dominating the shot totals, the Eagles didn’t get on the scoreboard until 16:51 of the first period. Captain Mitch Davies fed a pass to Trent Gaylor at the top of the crease on the play. Gaylor’s first attempt was stopped, but he managed to persevere with his second effort for his ninth of the year.

The second period was quite simply a grind. The Eagles held the Lumberjacks to only three shots on goal in the frame. Despite directing 14 shots of their own at the Port Perry goalkeeper, few could really be classified as prime scoring opportunities due the Lumberjacks’ solid defensive zone coverage.

Clarington would score the eventual game winner early in the third period. Winger Adam Klaas drove hard to the Port Perry net, before being hooked by a defender. On the ensuring powerplay, Klaas cleaned up a rebound at the top of the crease to put Clarington up 2-0. Kyle Smith and Ryan Hall earned assists on the play.

The Lumberjacks picked up their pace a little after going down 2-0 and were eventually able to bang a rebound past Eagles starter Jude Rondina to narrow the deficit. But Clarington held on for the 2-1 victory.

“Give Port Perry full credit. They’ve been playing well of late,” said assistant coach Jamie Showers. “They’re fighting for home ice advantage in the playoffs. They changed up their game plan against us and employed a trap.”

Showers noted his club could take some lessons from the game. “We could have given a little bit better effort overall. With that being said, we had some chances, and their goalie made some big saves,” said Jamie. “Our back end was moving the puck well and we really limited their shots and scoring chances. But we were a little bit snake bitten between the blue lines. We have to remember; there’s a right way to play the game when you’re holding a lead. We did the opposite of what we did in Georgina last week and it cost us a goal. We needed to do a better job of keeping pucks deep. We struggled with that methodology today for some reason.”

The teams will meet once more this season on February 18 in Port Perry. The Lumberjacks will be looking to avoid a Clarington season sweep and catch Uxbridge for third place in the Orr division standings.

Prior to the game, defenseman Kyle Shepherd was recognized as Eagles player of the month for January. The crafty skater scored six goals and added four assists over eight games in January while playing a responsible defensive game. “Yeah, I needed a watch, and I didn’t have one,” said Shepherd with a laugh when asked about the honour after the game. For those who are unaware, the player of the month receives a custom Eagles wristwatch courtesy of team sponsor Hoopers Jewellers. “It feels good to receive a recognition like that from your coaching staff.”

With the Clarington blueline solidified prior to the trade deadline, the coaching staff has been mixing and matching defensive pairs looking for the best fits. Shepherd seems to have found a regular playing partner recently in Ryan Hall. “I feel comfortable when I’m out there with him,” said Kyle. “I can rely on him to back me up and he’s always available as an outlet if I’m under pressure.”

The Eagles now have their attention focused on Tuesday’s road game in Lakefield. They return home on Thursday when they’ll host the North Kawartha Knights.