A pair of weekend wins have pushed the Uxbridge Bruins into first place in the COJHL standings, taking a one-point lead over the Port Perry MoJacks.
The Bruins entered their clash at Uxrena on Friday, Dec. 5 against the Clarington Eagles looking to get back on track after a 2-1 setback in Port Perry against the MoJacks the previous Sunday, that ended a run of five straight victories.
Almost three minutes into the second period, on Friday night Shane Smith picked up a loose puck following a near-miss by Todd Winder and circled through the offensive zone into the slot, where he beat Tyler Caruna high to give Uxbridge a 1-0 advantage. After several acrobatic saves by Francey, the Eagles finally notched the equalizer on the powerplay with just over five minutes to play in the middle stanza.
Early in the third period, Uxbridge had several sensational powerplay scoring chances turned aside, and shortly afterwards Francey made a dazzling save on Eagles forward Blane Gaudon to keep the game deadlocked. Despite a frantic finish to regulation time, both sides failed to find the back of the net, and overtime would be needed to determine a winner.
Less than two minutes into the extra frame, Marco Mastrangelo and Daryl Thomson combined for a great scoring chance, but couldn’t convert. Less than a minute later, Francey robbed Brodie Myers of a near-certain game winning goal.
With less than a minute left on the clock, and the game appearing to be set to go to a shootout, Jarett Smith powered into the offensive zone and had his shot turned aside, only to be picked up by Winder, who turned and found Connor Evans on the blue line. Smith would fight his way through heavy traffic to the front of the net to redirect Evans’ point shot past Caruna to lit Uxbridge to a hard fought 2-1 victory.
With the Eagles outshooting the Bruins by a margin of 50-29, there was little doubt in the mind of Bruins Head Coach Geoff Hodgkinson that Francey had proved the difference in Uxbridge soaring over the Eagles.
“Francey was on fire tonight, seeing everything,” Hodgkinson told The Standard. “The benefit of having a veteran like him back there is that he knows what we need, when we need it, and it’s a great help to have his maturity and control back there.”
As well, with the Bruins’ defensive corps short-staffed with Jordan Nesbitt signing with the Tier II Junior ‘A’ Stouffville Spirit earlier in the week, coupled with the absence of Carter Vahey and Adam Bartholomew due to other commitments, the Bruins got great contributions from their blueliners throughout Friday night’s match-up.
Patrick Bolahood moved back after spending the first 21 games of the season at forward, and was a force down the stretch, blocking four shots and adding three takeaways during the third period.
“Bolahood came to us and said that he’d played defence at times in minor hockey and really stepped up for us. He showed a lot of great character in doing a job that he doesn’t normally do, and was a big part of this win tonight,” added Hodgkinson.
On Sunday, Dec. 7, the Bruins wrapped up the weekend with a trek to Apsley for an encounter with the expansion North Kawartha Knights, who sit at the foot of the COJHL table with just seven points on the season.
First period goals from Mastrangelo and Shane Smith pushed the Bruins to a 2-0 lead, with assists credited to Jarett Smith, Jason Simmonds, Bartholomew and Winder.
Thomson and Winder struck early in the second to put Uxbridge ahead 4-0 before a shorthanded goal from the Knights broke up Jake Joosten’s shutout bid. Mastrangelo would score his second of the night with less than a minute left in the middle frame to give Uxbridge a four-goal lead after 40 minutes.
North Kawartha netted the lone goal of the third period as Uxbridge rolled to a 5-2 victory.
- This Friday (Dec. 13) the Bruins will be holding their first-ever Teddy Bear toss in support of the Uxbridge Community Toy Drive when they take on the Georgina Ice at Uxrena, starting at 7:45 p.m. Bring a stuffed animal wrapped in a plastic bag, and when the Bruins score their first goal, fans are encouraged to toss their bears onto the ice in support of less-fortunate families in the community this holiday season.
- The Bruins will wrap up this coming weekend with a trip to Bowmanville on Sunday, Dec. 14, for a 6:50 p.m. tilt with the Eagles.