Article by Sam Laskaris / Photos by Chris Archer
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By finishing off one of their busiest stretches of the season with another victory, the Clarington Eagles now find themselves atop their league standings once again.
The Eagles, who played three games in four nights this week, registered their fifth consecutive victory on Friday defeating the host Uxbridge Bruins 5-2 in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) match.
With the W, the Eagles improved their record to 15-5-0-2. With its 32 points, Clarington is one point up on the 15-4-0-1 Little Britain Merchants, who have two games in hand.
Friday’s contest, held at the Uxbridge Arena and Community Centre, was especially significant for Eagles’ veteran forward Dawson Manning.
The 20-year-old, who had a 16-goal season as a rookie with the Clarington club during the 2019-20 campaign, has had his share of misfortune finding the back of the net thus far this year.
But Manning scored twice versus the Bruins, ending an eight-game scoring drought.
Eagles’ rookie blueliner Owen McKinnon said Manning’s celebration on his first marker inspired his teammates.
“Dawson finally got the monkey off his back,” McKinnon said. “Right after his first goal he skated to the glass and threw the monkey (in a celebratory gesture). That got the boys fired up when he did that.”
Now that he has four goals this season, Manning will at least not have to put up with some chirping from his own teammate, veteran blueliner Carter Watkins, who is not known for his offensive skills.
“I had been giving it to him about the fact that we were tied with two goals each,” said Watkins, who also scored on Friday, giving him three goals on the year now.
Manning, who has a team-leading 17 assists this season, was obviously thrilled to net a pair of goals against Uxbridge.
“It feels really good,” he said.
Manning added it did take a while for the Eagles to get going against the Bruins.
“Legs were a bit tired and it showed in the first period,” he said. “But we woke up in the second and third.”
The Eagles outshot Uxbridge by a fair amount, 22-9 in the opening 20 minutes.
But Watkins said the shots on net were not indicative of the play as he felt the Eagles’ efforts were rather sloppy and included limited quality scoring opportunities.
Watkins added his squad was not already content having won its previous two matches during the week.
“We always want to win every game,” he said. “We believe we’re one of the top teams in the league.”
The Eagles had occupied top spot in the PJHL’s Orr Division standings earlier this year, thanks in large part to an eight-game winning streak.
But the Clarington side, which had several key players suspended for various stretches for their involvement in a November brawl against the Merchants, had recently fallen to third place in their divisional standings.
Though fatigue might have been a bit of a concern for the Eagles entering Friday’s outing, club members adjusted well.
“We were tired,” McKinnon said. “But it was nothing too serious. Obviously, we’re well conditioned now at this point of the season.”
Uxbridge did score the only goal of the first period. The Eagles though scored the only two goals of the middle frame to carry a 2-1 leading into the final 20 minutes.
The Eagles now have just one game remaining this month. Clarington is scheduled to host the Port Perry MoJacks this coming Thursday, Dec. 23.
The opening faceoff for that game, which will be held at Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex, is set for 7:20 p.m.