Uxbridge’s Coby Gardner called it “the biggest goal I’ve ever scored.”
The rookie forward’s fifth goal of the season not only sent over 200 stuffed animals raining down onto the ice as part of the Bruins’ annual Teddy Bear Toss night in support of the Uxbridge Community Toy Drive, but also stood as the game winner, with Uxbridge shutting out the rival Port Perry MoJacks in a ‘Battle of North Durham’ on Friday, Dec. 11.
There was a buzz in the air as the puck dropped on the latest meeting between the oldest rivals in the COJHL on Friday night at the Bear Den, with the crowd anxiously anticipating the Bruins’ first goal of the evening when they could toss their stuffed animal donations onto the ice.
Almost eight minutes into the action they got their wish when Ryan Miehm collected a pass from Brady Baker and found Gardner in front of the MoJacks net, where he banged in the puck to put the Bruins on the scoreboard and send more than 200 teddy bears flying from the crowd.
“I said to my parents before the game that I had a feeling I was going to get it, so I was confident coming into the game. Then Miehm gave me a great pass and I was able to bury it,” Gardner, a 20-year-old Uxbridge native told The Standard. “We say that we have the best fans in the league, and they showed it tonight with all of those teddy bears. It was probably the biggest goal I’ve ever scored.”
The Bruins were pressing late in the first period, trying to extend their lead, but Port Perry’s Kyle Schweda lived up to his reputation as one of the best penalty killers in the league as he deflected a shot from Bruins defenceman Tom Sheedy out of play, despite playing without a stick.
The second period saw even more intensity, with both teams stepping up their defensive efforts.
However, MoJacks forward Lucas Clark was able to charge his way through a pair of Bruins defenders only to be turned aside by Uxbridge netminder Branden Francey. At the other end of the ice, Brett Chandler was impressive in his second start for the MoJacks since being acquired from Georgina last week, turning aside every Uxbridge scoring chance in the middle frame.
Tempers flared at the end of the period following a hard hit by MoJacks defenceman Jesse Menzies on Daryl Thomson, leading to the Uxbridge overager taking a charging penalty at the end of the period and a scrum involving several members of both teams.
Uxbridge was able to kill off the early penalty, only to have great chances by Marco Mastrangelo and Alex Siblock turned aside by Chandler.
Liam Schweda nearly tied the game for Port Perry near the mid-point of the third, with his point shot missing the top corner by mere inches.
Gardner and Rob Freckelton, in his first game back with the Bruins after a semester in British Columbia, kept the MoJacks defence busy at the other end of the ice, forcing Chandler to make several sensational saves.
Late in the game, with Port Perry pressing for the tying goal with an extra attacker, Francey was able to preserve his third shutout of the season, making 41 total saves in a 1-0 Bruins win.
Following the game, Bruins head coach Geoff Hodgkinson continued the recent trend of praising his team’s defensive effort, calling it one of the team’s best showings this season.
“I think that our performance tonight ranks in the top defensively for the whole season,” Hodgkinson told The Standard. “It was a complete team effort. We kept Port Perry to the outside for most of the night and give Francey the ability to see most of their shots.”
Despite the loss, MoJacks head coach Clair Cornish noted that his team had performed well, and noted that the performance could bode well for the team as they move into the latter stages of the regular season.
“We played a good road game in a playoff-style atmosphere with a short bench. We had guys that came to compete and play our system. Although we didn’t win, I think that they were rewarded with a stepping stone in showing that we can compete in this league sticking to our system,” Cornish explained to The Standard.
On Sunday, Dec. 13, the MoJacks were back at Scugog Arena taking two points from the COJHL cellar-dwelling Georgina Ice with a 5-2 victory. The game featured the MoJacks annual ‘Winter Wooly Toss’ in support of Operation Scugog.
Just over a minute into the first period, Konrad Piorkowski gave the home fans their cue as bags filled with hats, scarves, mittens and other winter wear littered the ice after his 13th goal of the season opened the scoring.
Second period goals less than a minute apart from Jeff St. Pierre and Lucas Berkers pushed Port Perry’s lead to 3-0.
The third period saw both teams light the lamp twice, with Matt Trudel and Ethan Ramsden rounding out the scoring for the home side. Chandler picked up the win against his former team, turning aside 30 shots.
- The Bruins were busy adding players last week. In addition to Freckelton, the Bruins bolstered the blue line, picking up Brett Thomson from the Ice. In 2014, the 19-year-old brother of Bruins forward Daryl Thomson was a member of the provincial champion Lakefield Chiefs.
- This weekend, the ‘Battle of North Durham’ is waged once again, with the MoJacks and Bruins squaring off at Scugog Arena on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 2:25 p.m, the final game for both teams before the holiday break.
- The Bruins are back in action at the Bear Den at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18, when they take on the league-leading Clarington Eagles. The game will be the final opportunity for fans to contribute their donations to this year’s Uxbridge Community Toy Drive.
- The MoJacks will head to Little Britain on Saturday night for a 7:30 p.m. match-up against the red-hot Merchants, winners of five straight games.