By Sam Laskaris
For the second consecutive outing the Clarington Eagles required a bit of help to fill out their roster.
And the Eagles once again came close but on the losing end of another one-goal decision. Clarington was edged 5-4 by the visiting Lakefield Chiefs in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) match staged Thursday at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
The Eagles now find themselves on a two-game losing skid. It’s the first time this season the Clarington squad has lost back-to-back matches.
The Eagles entered Thursday’s outing with six players still on the suspended list, following a fight-filled encounter the previous week against the Little Britain Merchants.
Clarington required four affiliated players to fill out its 20-player roster.
“I think we’re happy from the effort in the second and third period,” said Eagles’ assistant coach Chris Kerr, who handled the head coaching duties on Thursday, in the absence of Dean Baumhauer, who was away due to a personal family commitment. “But I’m definitely not happy with the effort in the first period. We had lots of chances, we had lot of shots on net but when guys don’t come to play, you’re behind the eight ball before you even start the game.”
The Eagles fell behind 2-0 in the opening period. But Clarington got onto the scoreboard late in the period when blueliner Ethan Vivian, a callup from the Clarington Toros’ Under-18 AAA squad, netted his second goal in three appearances for the Eagles.
Vivian directed what appeared to be a harmless looking shot from the point at Chiefs’ netminder Andrew Welch. The Lakefield goalie managed to get his blocker on that shot but it flipped up into the air and then directly behind him into the net.
“It’s kind of hard having a bunch of guys out but we’re trying to make it work as best as we can,” Manarin said. “We had a couple of callups step up. I think they played great. They stepped up.”
Despite dressing four affiliated players, goalie Noah MacDonald didn’t see any action as Clarington’s backup netminder Tyler Ryan earned his second consecutive start.
Ryan is also expected to receive the starting assignments in upcoming matches while Clarington’s star puckstopper Alex Lepizzera continues to serve a five-game suspension for his involvement in the game brawl last week.
“We’re still sore from suspensions,” Kerr said. “Having the number one goalie in the league out for five games, that shows a big difference – the difference of winning and losing hockey games.”
While last week’s brawl was unifying, Manarin said his teammates are aware some lengthy suspensions are the repercussions.
“It’s good that it’s not an every-game-occurring thing,” he said. “We’re not going to be having that many guys out again. They know there are consequences now and hopefully the games calm down a bit.”
The Eagles were hoping to at least come out with a point on Thursday. It appeared the match might require some overtime to declare a winner. But the Chiefs scored the winning goal with 87 seconds remaining in the match.
“We definitely deserved a point,” said Eagles’ forward Matt McCullough, who pitched in and joined the Clarington blueline corps for the first time. “It was a tough last goal there late in the game. You’ve just got to battle back next game and try to get the two points.”
McCullough said the Eagles have faced some challenges their past couple of outings having numerous affiliated players in their lineup.
“You’re playing with different guys all the time,” he said. “It’s difficult to find the chemistry. But you’ve just got to find it eventually and it will come.”
McCullough had seen some action playing the point on Eagles’ powerplays this season. But for his first full game playing defence, he was matched up with rookie Ethan Schoonderbeek, who has been one of the club’s most consistent performers all season.
“He’s a helluva player,” McCullough said. “He was helping me out a lot telling me where to go and what to do, when to shoot, when to pass, stuff like that.”
Despite the loss, Clarington remained in a tie for top spot in the PJHL’s Orr Division with the North Kawartha Knights. Both teams have 22 points.
The Knights’ record is 11-5-0-0 while the Eagles are 10-4-0-2.
The Eagles will play their final game of November this Sunday when they hit the road to square off against the Port Perry MoJacks. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 2:25 p.m. at Scugog Arena.
Clarington will then prepare for its next home match, this coming Thursday (Dec. 2). The Georgina Ice will provide the opposition for that tilt, which is set to commence at 7:20 p.m.
Additional game photos by Chris Archer & N. Schoonderbeek