DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
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.
Despite a strong start to the weekend, defeating the North Kawartha Knights 5-0 in Apsley on Saturday; the Port Perry MoJacks failed to make up any ground in the standings as they dropped a 5-3 decision to the Little Britain Merchants at home on Sunday.
After a disappointing 5-1 loss at home to league-leading Clarington last weekend, the MoJacks entered the weekend looking to get back in the win column as they made the trek to Apsley for a Saturday, Dec. 5 matinee against the Knights.
Goaltender Brett Chandler made a dazzling first impression after being acquired from the Georgina Ice on Thursday, Dec. 3, posting a shutout in his first regular season game with the MoJacks.
Mitchell Gustavsen, Lucas Berkers, Jeff St. Pierre, Konrad Piorkowski and Graham Lamers scored for the MoJacks in the win. Assists were credited to Jesse Menzies, Jordan McCullough, Piorkowski, Liam Schweda, St. Pierre, Kyle Schweda and Berkers.
Following the game, MoJacks head coach Clair Cornish noted that he expected the 18-year-old Chandler to be able to step in and compete right away after spending last season with the Junior ‘A’ Lindsay Muskies before splitting the early portion of this season between Clarington and Georgina.
“With Cooper Howieson’s injury taking longer than expected to heal, we had to ensure that we had a quality tandem in goal, and that’s what we expect Brett to bring. Blake Shaw has played a lot lately, and hopefully Brett can come in and spell him and give us some more consistency in practice rather than relying on players called up from Midget teams,” explained Cornish.
The MoJacks were looking to make it back-to-back wins the following afternoon when the Little Britain Merchants visited Scugog Arena.
The Merchants rang up an early lead just over three minutes into the action, with Derek Risebrough netting his fifth goal of the season. But, the MoJacks would waste little time replying, as just 15 seconds later, St. Pierre tied the game converting a great pass from Piorkowski. Less than three minutes later,
Todd McNair pushed the MoJacks into the lead with a powerplay goal, assisted by Kyle Schweda.
The teams would trade chances throughout the next seven minutes of action, until a crushing hit by Jesse Beers on Graham Lamers led to an odd-man rush for the Merchants, with Nate ‘Bubba’ Watson tying the game for the visitors.
The hard hits continued in the second period, with both sides seeking a physical edge.
The Merchants caught a break with just under 11 minutes to play in the middle frame, when Terry
Snoddon pounced on a loose puck and blazed past the MoJacks defence en route to a dazzling deke and breakway shorthanded goal to restore the Merchants’ lead.
Owen Fawns would double that lead early in the third period, and a powerplay goal by Jesse Craig would swell Little Britain’s advantage to 5-2.
Late in the game, tensions would boil over between the two sides with a lively bout between Gustavsen and Brant Foster bringing the crowd to its feet.
St. Pierre would score late for the MoJacks, but 5-3 would be as close as they’d get, with the Merchants cashing in the win.
Following the game, Cornish noted that the MoJacks had failed to capitalize on their scoring chances as they had the previous day in Apsley.
“On Saturday, we executed really well and were able to capitalize on our scoring chances. Against Little Britain, we had lots of shots, but couldn’t capitalize the same way especially in the second period, where we had lots of opportunities to pull ahead,” commented Cornish.
Meanwhile, Little Britain Assistant Coach Steve Trumball noted that the Merchants appear to be rounding into form, after a delayed start to the COJHL season winning three of their past four games following a string of three consecutive one-goal losses.
“We’ve been playing well. But, in this league it’s not good enough just to play well, you’ve got to find a way to win and we wanted to send a message that we’re for real and start putting points on the board.”
As well, Trumball noted that the Merchants have tried to establish depth in their lineup through the first half of the regular season, as well as maintain balanced special teams units.
“We feel good about our depth, and today we were able to use everyone on our powerplay, and on the penalty kill, Terry came through with a big shorthanded goal for us.”
- The MoJacks will host their annual ‘Wooly Toss’ in support of Operation Scugog on Sunday, Dec. 13, when the Georgina Ice visit Scugog Arena at 2:25 p.m. Fans are encourage to bring winter hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, and socks wrapped in a plastic bag to be thrown onto the ice when the MoJacks score their first goal.
- On Friday, Dec. 11, the MoJacks head west on Reach St. for another round in the ‘Battle of North Durham’ as they tangle with the Uxbridge Bruins at 7:45 p.m.
- Forward Kyle Schweda has now registered at least a point in his past five games.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
The Uxbridge Bruins survived a scare from Little Britain at the Bear Den on Friday night, downing the Merchants 5-4 to pick up their third straight win.
The two sides share a rivalry that dates back almost 40 years, and games between the Merchants and Bruins are typically emotionally-charged, physical affairs. This match-up was no different, with Wes Cowie and Coby Gardner delivering several jarring hits in the early stages of the contest, with Kenzie Smith replying for Little Britain.
Nick Sribny’s fifth goal of the season put the Bruins ahead just over seven minutes into the action. And, with time winding down in the first period, Marco Mastrangelo doubled the Bruins lead to 2-0 with his 14th goal of the campaign.
However, despite the positive momentum heading into the intermission, the Merchants wasted little time scoring in the second, with Reed Westington scoring just over two minutes into the second period and Nate ‘Bubba’ Watson netting the equalizer just over six minutes later.
However, the Bruins would claw their way back with Daryl Thomson scoring off an offensive zone face-off just past the mid-point of the second, and Mastrangelo netting a late powerplay goal to restore a two-goal cushion for the home side heading into the third period.
The teams continued their punishing physical play in the third period, with great scoring chances turned aside early in the frame.
However, just over six minutes into the frame, Merchants captain Terry Snoddon showcased why he is the reigning Provincial Junior ‘C’ player of the year when he twisted and turned past four Bruins defenders before scoring a backhanded goal and bringing the Shopkeepers to within one.
The intense atmosphere continued in the final ten minutes, finally boiling over after Michael Cox tied the game with a powerplay goal following a wild scramble in front of the Uxbridge goal with just under eight minutes to play. The ensuing scrum would result in ejections for Bruins defencemen Jordan Nesbitt and Adam Bartholomew and Merchants forward Keegan Cairns, an Uxbridge native and former Bruin.
With the defence depleted, Bruins goalie Branden Francey made several sensational saves down the stretch to keep the Merchants offence stalled.
With less than two minutes remaining, Thomson found Shane Smith streaking to the net, and the veteran forward made no mistake, beating Merchants goalie Garrett Haden high to clinch the victory for the Bruins.
Following the game, Bruins head coach Geoff Hodgkinson praised the work of the line of overage Uxbridge forwards Smith, Mastrangelo and Thomson.
“They’ve got great chemistry together, that they scored four of our five goals tonight shows what they can do when they’re clicking.”
As well, Hodgkinson noted that the Bruins had responded well when challenged by the Merchants throughout the contest.
“I thought we were really resilient tonight, and we found a way to come back strong after facing some adversity. We’re forming a good identity on the defensive end and playing really strong in our own end.”
- With a goal and two assists against the Merchants, Smith extended his point streak to six straight games.
- The Bruins will be back in action at the Bear Den at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4 when they tangle with the North Kawartha Knights.
- The Bruins will head to Little Britain on Saturday night for a 7:30 p.m. rematch with the Mercants.
- Uxbridge will also host a rare Tuesday night tilt at the Bear den against Georgina at 8:10 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
- On Friday, Dec. 11, the Bruins will host their annual ‘Teddy Bear Toss Night’ when the Port Perry MoJacks visit the Bear Den for a ‘Battle of North Durham’ at 7:45 p.m.
- New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at all Bruins home games in support of the Uxbridge Community Toy Drive.