Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer
The Clarington Eagles were expecting a tougher test when they hosted the Georgina Ice this Thursday at Rickard arena. They got one. But in the end, the Eagles scored three late third-period goals to grind out a 4-1 victory.
The Ice had strung together seven straight wins heading into the contest and sat just four points behind the Clarington in the Orr division standings.
This one was a tight-checking affair from the opening drop of the puck.
Georgina got on the scoresheet first midway through the first period. Ice captain Mike McCullough found space in the Clarington zone and drove wide on the Eagles’ defence. McCullough’s shot from just inside the face-off dot appeared to deflect slightly off the outstretched stick of Ryan Hall before beating starter Oliver Webster.
Georgina’s lead didn’t last long. A little more than a minute later, Clarington would even things up.
Rookie defenseman Kayden Hambly, who has shown steady growth in his game so far in his first junior hockey season, started the play by controlling a bouncing puck at the Georgina blue line to maintain the offensive zone for the Eagles. The puck eventually made its way to Nolan Matheson, who was able to walk into the top of the circle before beating the Ice netminder.
From there, the game became a bit of a chess match. The Eagles controlled much of the play and had a significant shot advantage. However, the Ice did a good job limiting prime scoring opportunities and were a threat in the offensive zone when they had their chances.
The game remained tied at one through two periods of play.
The Eagles penalty kill came up big in the game, successfully killing off two lengthy 5-on-3 shorthanded situations in the third period. They broke the game open late in the third as a direct result of their penalty kill.
With just over five minutes to play, Kolby Poulin stepped out of the penalty box to end the second 5-on-3 Ice advantage and slipped behind the Georgina defence. Ryan Hall sprung the speedy forward with a perfect breakaway pass from the Eagles’ zone. Poulin skillfully forced the goalie to move with several dangles before slipping a quick backhand through the out-stretched keeper.
Poulin wasn’t looking forward to hearing from his coaches when he took the second minor penalty for cross-checking to put his team down two men. “I wasn’t too happy about it, that’s for sure,” said Poulin. “I thought it was a weaker call. We were battling with those guys all night. I thought I could have got away with that with him leaning on my stick.”
All was forgiven when Poulin got back to the bench after potting the game winner. “I got lucky coming out of the box,” said Kolby. “Hallzy saw me and sprung me. My go-to is the backhand, and the goalie opened up enough for me to poke it through the five-hole.”
Adam Klaas added an insurance marker just a minute after Poulin’s go-ahead goal, and Kyle Smith salted away the victory with an empty netter.
“Georgina has been coming on,”’ said Eagles assistant coach Jamie Showers who assumed head coaching duties for the game in Dean Baumhauer’s absence. “Last year they improved. This year they’re an all-around better hockey club. They’re well-coached and it was a good challenge for us tonight. In the end, our perseverance, leadership group, and maturity were the difference.”
“Our penalty kill came through big time for us,” Showers continued. “Matheson put in some important minutes and had some big plays and shot blocks. We got some huge saves from Webster, which is why we went out and acquired a goaltender like him. All in all, the guys stuck with the gameplan. We doubled them up on shots tonight, and I think we deserved the win as much as any other game we’ve won this year.”
The Eagles have now won four straight and sit four points ahead of second-place Georgina for top spot in the Orr division after the Ice rebounded with a win over Uxbridge Friday evening.
The next game for your hometown team is Thursday, November 9 when the Port Perry Lumberjacks come to town. The Eagles won the last contest between the rival clubs 7-0.