Article by I. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer
The Clarington Eagles got back in the win column Saturday in Apsley, defeating the host North Kawartha Knights 7-1.
For followers of the Jr ‘C’ squad, the outcome and score likely didn’t come as a great surprise. After all, the Eagles are perched atop the Orr division standings while the Knights have managed only one victory through 10 games so far this season.
What did raise a few eyebrows was the 5-goal outing from first year Eagle Kyle Smith.
“I told him (Smith) on the bench in the second period that if it weren’t for him, we’d be down 1-0,” said trainer Craig Wilcox with a grin.
Smith, along with linemates Trevor Urquhart and Adam Klaas have been getting the job done offensively all season for Clarington. As of the writing of this article, all three skaters find themselves in the top seven scorers in the PJHL. They combined for 12 points on Saturday night.
What makes their accomplishments on the scoreboard even more impressive is that they’ve managed to do it playing a complete 200 foot game. Their tireless work on the forecheck and willingness to absorb punishment in front of the opposition net has been key to generating scoring opportunities. They’ve taken no short cuts while setting their torrid scoring pace.
“Kyle (Smith) and I have always prided ourselves in being able to play a two way game,” said Urquhart. “It’s just as important to backcheck and be doing the right things in our own end.”
Coach Dean Baumhauer was looking for the right player to slot in with Smith and Urquhart early in the season. He appears to have found the perfect fit in big winger Adam Klaas, who has fed off the work ethic of his new line mates and is enjoying a breakout season.
“Klaas has been awesome,” said Urquhart. “He’s always in the right spot, and makes it real easy for me and Smitty to find him. He seems to be putting the puck in the net every time we give it to him!”
Baumhauer loves what he’s seeing so far from his new recruits. “Both kids (Smith and Urquhart) have been better than I expected,” said Dean. “Not just their play, but their coachability and compete level. These guys want to be on the ice in all situations and immediately came in and gained the full respect of their teammates. They’re able to make those around them better, and have helped Klaas elevate his game.”
Smith and Urquhart brought an already established chemistry when they signed with the Eagles this off-season after spending the previous two with the Durham Roadrunners along with defenseman Kyle Shepherd. The three 2003 born players have been integral to the success of the team thus far this season.
“Dean reached out in the off-season to ask if I wanted to play,” said Smith. “I saw what this team has done the last two seasons and was excited about the opportunity to help try to push them over the edge.”
Once the Eagles received a commitment from Smith, Urquhart and Shepherd who had also been courted by the team, quickly came on board. “Once I came on board, these boys decided to follow me,” Smith said with a chuckle. “Urk is a good line mate. I wouldn’t have scored those five goals without him!”
Shepherd, who served as team captain with the Roadrunners last season, has settled comfortably into a support role with the strong returning cast on the Eagles’ blue line.
“The offer to play here was too good an opportunity to pass up, especially after Smitty and Urquhart signed,” said Shepherd. “This might end up being my last year. You want to have an opportunity to win.”
Shepherd acknowledged joining the Eagles blueline required an adjustment period. “I didn’t feel very comfortable early on,” said Shepherd. “I’d be driving home from games with my dad, and he’d be telling me I had a good game. Meanwhile, I’d be thinking did I really? But now that I’ve settled in a little bit and gotten to know the boys, I feel like my game is back to where I need it to be in this league.
A big part of Shepherd’s success this season has been his simple approach to the game. He moves the puck out of his own end well, and you won’t often find him leading an offensive rush or on the forecheck below the opposition red line. Yet, he has managed to efficiently rack up four goals and nine points in ten games.
“We knew the skill set that was there with him. He just had to get adjusted to our league,” said assistant coach Jamie Showers. “I think he found our league a little quicker and higher calibre than he anticipated, but after a few games he’s adjusted seamlessly. He’s been a good teammate, he’s coachable, and he gets it when it comes to responsibility on the ice.”
Smith, Urquhart, Shepherd and the rest of your Clarington Eagles are back in action this Saturday. They travel back to Apsley for a rematch with North Kawartha at 7:25 p.m.