The opening rounds of the Battle of North Durham were waged over the weekend, with the Uxbridge Bruins and Port Perry MoJacks splitting the weekend home-and-home match-up between the local Junior ‘C’ hockey teams.
The MoJacks’ offence ran rampant over a depleted Bruins squad in Uxbridge on Friday, Oct. 16, scoring a 6-0 shutout. However, the Bruins battled back on Sunday afternoon in Port Perry, as they clawed their way to a 2-1 victory over the rival MoJacks.
Both sides came into the match-up on Friday night looking to get back to winning ways. The Bruins were coming off a 6-2 loss to the Clarington Eagles in Bowmanville on Thursday night, with Coby Gardner and Nick Sribny scoring for Uxbridge. Meanwhile, the MoJacks were coming off a 3-1 upset at the hands of the North Kawartha Knights at Scugog Arena on the previous Sunday afternoon.
There was no love lost between the North Durham rivals in their first meeting of the 2015-16 season, and just over six minutes into the action, Graham Lamers gave the MoJacks the lead when he tucked in a loose puck, with Lucas Clark picking up the assist. Six minutes later, Port Perry doubled their lead on a powerplay goal from Chris Polito, assisted by Ethan Ramsden and Konrad Piorkowski.
With just over five minutes to play in the opening period, Clark continued to rise to the occasion when playing in Uxbridge when he managed to fire a shot over the outstretched glove of goalie Branden Francey despite an Uxbridge defender being draped over him.
“Games against Uxbridge definitely have a different feel to them, because it’s such a great rivalry and so many of us have played with and against each other for so long. It’s always going to be tough between Port Perry and Uxbridge, no matter what the standings say, or how the last game went,” Clark told The Standard.
The MoJacks wasted little time adding to their lead in the second period, as Ramsden notched a powerplay goal just 24 seconds into the middle frame.
Blake Shaw remained sharp in goal for the MoJacks in the second period, turning aside some outstanding scoring chances for the Bruins.
The third period saw Jordan McCullough and Jeff St. Pierre round out the scoring for the MoJacks, as they rolled to a 6-0 victory.
Following the game, MoJacks bench boss Clair Cornish noted that he was pleased with the way his team was able to take advantage of their opportunity with Uxbridge shorthanded, with several of the Bruins key contributors including Marco Mastrangelo, Daryl Thomson, Ryan Miehm and Jordan Nesbitt sidelined with injuries.
“Once again, we came in with a line-up that has a lot of players in the first year of junior hockey and they handled themselves really well,” commented Cornish. “I’m pleased with our gameplay and the way our defenders were able to protect the front of our net.We didn’t quite face the true Uxbridge Bruins here tonight, and Sunday could be a totally different story.
Cornish’s words would prove to be prophetic on Sunday afternoon as the teams renewed hostilities at Scugog Arena to close out the home-and-home set.
Both sides would ride stellar goaltending to the late stages of the game, with a razor-thin margin for error as Uxbridge ultimately prevailed by a score of 2-1.
The Bruins took the lead just over seven minutes into the action, when Gardner poked in a rebound. However, the MoJacks would answer right back almost three minutes later when Clark scooped up a Kyle Schweda rebound and flicked the loose puck over the glove of Uxbridge goalie Jake Joosten to knot the game 1-1.
The score would remain deadlocked as Joosten and Shaw both turned aside several sensational scoring chances through the next 40-plus minutes of action.
As the clock ticked down in the final 10 minutes of the third period, the game seemed to grow more intense by the second, as both sides grew more desperate to score the critical next goal.
Fantastic effort by a trio of Uxbridge natives ultimately gave Uxbridge the go-ahead goal with just under four minutes to play. Chasing down a loose puck, Shane Smith won a battle with Kyle Schweda for control of the puck behind the MoJacks’ net and passed to a hard-charging Gardner only to have Shaw make a tremendous save. But, Dylan Pollard was able to swoop in and slam in the rebound as the visiting fans erupted in cheers, as Pollard’s first goal of the season stood up as the winner. The MoJacks were unable to slip anymore pucks past Joosten down the stretch, despite an extended six-on-three advantage in the final minute of the match.
“After giving up 12 goals in our last two games, we came in with an open mind and wiped the slate clean. We were short staffed again tonight, but I’m really proud of the way everyone stepped up to get this win,” Bruins head coach Geoff Hodgkinson told The Standard following the game. “With some key guys missing, it’s given all of our guys the chance to move into bigger roles and a great opportunity to see for us as a staff to see how they perform against higher calibre players.”
- The Bruins will be back in action at the Bear Den on Friday, Oct. 24, with the Lakefield Chiefs in town for a 7:45 p.m. tilt. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, the Bruins will host a rare mid-week home game, taking on the Georgina Ice at 8:10 p.m.
- It will be another tough test for the MoJacks as they host the league-leading Clarington Eagles at Scugog Arena on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 2:25 p.m., in the lone game of the weekend for Port Perry.