DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
A change behind the bench appears to have provided a spark for the Uxbridge Bruins as they posted back-to-back weekend wins over the North Kawartha Knights and Little Britain Merchants.
Last week, the team mutually agreed to part ways with Head Coach Phil Kestin amid an up-and-down 2023-24 Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) season that has seen the team mostly stuck in third place in the Orr Division standings, with some prolonged losing streaks. Kestin had led the team to a somewhat surprising second-place finish a year ago, falling to the Clarington Eagles in the Cougar Cup division championships in the playoffs.
The man tabbed to replace him, Chris Kerr, was no stranger to the Knights as the two teams squared off at the Bear Den on Friday, January 19th, as Kerr previously served as head coach in North Kawartha, as well as an assistant coach in Clarington.
The Bruins put their best foot forward in front of the new bench boss, cruising to a 7-1 victory over the Knights.
First-period goals from Anthony Lamanna and Quinn Meek gave the Bruins an early advantage, and they never looked back. In the second period, Uxbridge pushed their lead to 5-0 behind goals from Lamanna, newly-acquired Ryan Shier, and Ty Roberts. In the third period, Bruins goals from Meek and Lucas Marshall were broken up by a Knights goal to round out the scoring. Andrew Claugton stopped 25 shots to earn his ninth win of the season in net for the Bruins.
The following night, the Bruins made the trek to Little Britain for a Saturday showdown with the rival Merchants that saw an explosion of offence in a great back-and-forth affair on a chilly night in the Kawarthas.
A scoreless first period gave way to a frantic middle frame that saw the Merchants grab the lead just 30 seconds into the action. However, the Bruins would quickly bounce back with goals from Lamanna, Owen Shier, and Evan Gilbert to take a 3-1 lead, although the home side would score late in the frame to cut the lead to a single goal heading into the third period.
Both teams saw their offence continue to roll in the final frame. The Merchants tied the game just over a minute into the action. But, before the two-minute mark, Jake Rigillo had replied to restore the 4-3 lead for Uxbridge.
However, unassisted goals from former Bruin Brando Mancia and Merchants rookie sensation Travis Aitchison brought the Merchants fans out of their seats as they roared to a 5-4 lead, their first since early in the second period. But, the Bruins showed great determination down the stretch, with Owen Shier tying the game 5-5 on a powerplay goal with just under nine minutes remaining in regulation. Just 15 seconds later, Gavin Graham netted the eventual game-winning goal, and an empty net tally from Gilbert sealed the 7-5 Uxbridge win.
- The Bruins made a trade last week, sending towering defenceman Josh Czalij to the Junior ‘B’ Pelham Panthers in exchange for Ryan Shier, the younger brother of Owen Shier. Back closer to his Sunderland home, he made an immediate impact at forward for the Bruins, netting a goal against the Knights.
- The Bruins are back in action on Thursday, January 25th, when they travel to Bowmanville for a 7:25 p.m. match-up against the division-leading Clarington Eagles.
- On Friday, January 26th, the Bruins will be back at the Bear Den to tangle with the Lakefield Chiefs. The action gets underway at 7:45 p.m.