Eagles Win Series Opener against North Kawartha Knights

Article by Sam Laskaris/Photos by Chris Archer

Special teams was the difference maker for the Clarington Eagles on Tuesday.

The Eagles scored four powerplay goals and added a shorthanded marker to blank the host North Kawartha Knights 5-0 in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) contest.

The match, held at the North Kawartha Community Centre in Apsley, was the series opener in a best-of-seven PJHL Orr Division semi-final battle.

Brady Darrach, Mitch Davies, Nate Stirling and Nate Baumhauer all netted powerplay goals for the Eagles while Dawson Manning scored while the Eagles were playing a man short.

Meanwhile, Alex Lepizzera stopped all 30 shots he faced to earn his second shutout of the playoffs.

Baumhauer’s goal was a rarity. Clarington’s overage blueliner did not score during the regular season.

And he admitted he got quite the chuckle that the goal was credited to him since he took a shot from the point and fellow defenceman Ethan Schoonderbeek was actually the one who picked up the rebound and deposited it into the back of the Knights’ net.

Davies scored 19 seconds later when the previous goal was being announced as Baumhauer’s.

“The girlfriend is going to love it,” Baumhauer said of the fact he was credited with the goal.

Though he heard the P.A. announcement, Baumhauer added most of his teammates were probably unaware that he was awarded a goal since they were busy celebrating Davies’ goal.

“I was fist pumping on the bench,” Baumhauer added.

As for Davies, he was pleased to see the Eagles enjoy success with their powerplay, which had been a team concern for a good chunk of the season.

Clarington capitalized on four out of its eight PP opportunities.

“Now we’ve really got it going on,” Davies said. “We worked on it every practice (recently). We knew what we had to do to get it going.”

Davies was also pleased to see his squad win the series opener on the road.

“It gives us momentum going into Game 2, especially coming in and taking a game like that in their barn,” he said.

The Eagles will host Game 2 in the series on Thursday (Mar. 24). That match, which will be held at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex, is set for 7:20 p.m.

Clarington came into the series on a high, having swept the Port Perry MoJacks 4-0 in their best-of-seven opening playoff series.

As for the Knights, they had a first-round bye.

Both the Little Britain Merchants and Eagles had finished ahead of the third-place North Kawartha squad in the regular season standings.

But both Little Britain and Clarington decided not to take the opening-round bye as they preferred to continue playing instead of having a lengthy rest before commencing their post-seasons.

The Knights, however, did not have a choice and were forced to take the bye.

“I really liked starting off on the road because we knew they were off for a couple of weeks,” Eagles’ head coach Dean Baumhauer (Nate’s father) said of the Knights.

Clarington though maintained home-ice advantage throughout this round. Besides hosting the second game, the Eagles will also host Game 4 and if necessary, games 5 and 7.

The elder Baumhauer was also pleased to see his charges pick up the W despite the fact three of its regulars were missing from the lineup.

Owen Manarin and Matt McCullough were nursing injuries while Leyton Aitken was serving the last game of his suspension assessed during the series with the MoJacks.

“We won each period,” the elder Baumhauer added. “We scored a goal in each period. And I like that our team has a real confidence about itself now.”

The winner of the Clarington/North Kawartha series will advance to the Orr Division final series.

The other semi-final series, scheduled to begin on Wednesday, features Little Britain against the Lakefield Chiefs.


Additional Photos by Chris Archer: