Watkins, Manning & Rondina Celebrated in Back Half of Season

Article by N. Schoonderbeek/Media by C. Archer

The Clarington Eagles are a talented team with depth. All four lines play regularly and contribute to the team’s success at the top of the Orr Division. Many players received mid-season recognition for early success, and several more have received recent honours.

“After missing an Ontario Junior C Championship by an overtime goal in the final game in the 2021/22 season, and also losing four key overage players, one might expect the Eagles would need a year or two to rebuild a championship team,” said president Kirk Kemp. The Eagles, however, have an advantage in their pocket.  “We have Dean Baumhauer as head coach and general manager! Dean and his coaching staff have assembled another awesome team built for a long playoff run.”

The Eagles Player of the Month award is sponsored by Hooper’s Trophies and Sportswear and Hoopers Jewellers. The coaches focus on overall effort, things players do that don’t always appear on the game sheet, off-ice contributions, and on-ice statistics when making their selection.

Carter Watkins was announced as the player of the month for December after rising to the challenge and elevating his play when his playing time was significantly increased due to injuries and suspensions to the defensive core. He dressed in all eight games for the Eagles in December, and killed more penalties than usual and spent more time on the powerplay. He produced in every situation he was faced with, resulting in six points and shutting down the opposing team’s offence.

“This year has been a good year for me personally and as a team. Playing for Dean for three years helped me grow as a player. Playing in this system has shown a lot of success for me,” remarked Watkins. “It’s a huge honour to be recognized as player of the month. We have a lot of great players on this team that make playing the game a lot easier.”

Captain Dawson Manning received the Hoopers player of the month award for January. He has been one of the best players for not only Clarington, but in the entire PJHL (Manning was also the PJHL Orr Division player of the month in October). In January, Manning elevated his game even higher. He played seven games, scored five goals, and added thirteen assists for a total of eighteen points. He was the leading scorer in the Eastern Conference and was tied for fifth overall in the PJHL.

Jude Rondina, who was acquired from the Georgina Ice at the January trade deadline, saw immediate success with the Eagles. He was awarded the Hoopers Player of the Month award for February for his outstanding statistics that month. He started five games in net for the Eagles, winning all five games. Two of those games were shutouts. He allowed only five goals all month while working to the tune of 0.97 goals against average and a .959 save percentage. The Beatles may have been on to something when they wrote their famous song (which should now be an earworm for you for the rest of the day).

Rondina described several key factors in his success as a new Eagle, including “the courageous D-core when it comes to blocking shots, followed by a prideful back-checking offence that can put the puck on the net. This lets the goalies relax a little bit. The players compliment one another.”

On the same night that he was awarded the Hoopers Player of the Month Award, Eastern Conference Manager Chris Clarke was at the game to announce that Rondina was also Orr Division Player of the Month award for January. In the month of January, Rondina’s goals against average was a sparkling 1.00 and his save percentage dazzled at .960.

“These awards are a great self-confidence boost and I’m very proud that my hard work has been paying off. And the job is just beginning!” said Rondina. But he also recognized that the trade to the Eagles has been a major part of his success. “I couldn’t have done it without this team in front of me; great group of guys, extremely well-rounded hockey team, and I just gelled naturally with them.”

President Kemp invites you to join us at the rink for some exciting hockey this spring to watch these players continue to shine. “I suspect the Eagles will be playing hockey this season longer than most NHL hockey teams,” remarked Kemp.