By Sam Laskaris
It appeared to be a mismatch on paper.
But as it turned out a much closer contest than what many would have anticipated transpired on Thursday night in a Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) contest held at the Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex.
The Clarington Eagles required a last-minute, empty-net goal before they could breathe easy, having secured a 4-2 victory over the visiting Uxbridge Bruins.
The Eagles entered the match on a five-game winning streak while the Bruins had registered just one victory in their first six starts.
Uxbridge, however, more than held its own in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Eagles 17-10 and taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
“When a team comes in with one win, they’re going to be desperate and play hard,” said Clarington head coach Dean Baumhauer. “And we weren’t ready to go in the first period. We think we’re really good right now. We know we’re beating teams and think it’s going to be easy. We’re going to get caught. We would have got caught by maybe a team that was at the top of the standings tonight.”
The Eagles, who improved their record to 6-1, did come out on a bit of a mission in the second period.
Rookie forward Jordan Shaw tied the game just 11 seconds into the frame with a mere second left on a Clarington powerplay.
Just over two minutes later, another rookie forward, Nate Stirling, gave the Eagles a 2-1 lead with another powerplay goal.
And then just past the seven-minute mark of the period, yet another rookie, Leyton Aitken, extended the Clarington advantage to 3-1.
An Uxbridge goal in the eighth minute of the third stanza cut the Bruins’ deficit to one and ensured an interesting finish.
Eagles’ veteran forward Joey Cole scored an insurance marker into an empty net with just 12 seconds left in the game to seal the deal.
Alex Lepizzera earned his fifth victory of the season between the pipes for the Eagles.
“Our goalie played well and I thought other than that it was hard to find too many guys that had their personal best, that’s for sure,” Baumhauer said.
Earning the two points, however, was the key.
“You’re going to have to win some ugly ones once in a while,” Baumhauer said. “It’s a long season. Not every game is going to be perfect.”
Shaw felt the fact the Bruins entered the game occupying the cellar of the PJHL’s seven-team Orr Division contributed to the Eagles’ lackluster efforts early on.
“I feel like it was on our mind,” Shaw said. “I feel that’s why we didn’t get out to a good start. I feel like we were running off a high knowing that they had just one win. But in the second period we got it back together realizing we have to play this game and then we ended up playing well.”
The Bruins ended up outshooting the Eagles 30-27 in the game.
“We battled through,” Shaw added. “It wasn’t a good game but I feel it made us come together as a team. Other than that, we squeaked out another W and that’s all that matters.”
The Eagles are right back on the ice again Friday night with a road contest against the Georgina Ice. The opening faceoff for that match, which will be held at the Georgina Ice Palace, is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Clarington squad will also hit the road next Tuesday (Nov. 2) for a game versus the Lakefield Chiefs.
The Eagles’ next game is next Thursday (Nov. 4). The North Kawartha Knights will provide the opposition for that tilt, which has an opening faceoff scheduled for 7:20 p.m.