MARLO STANFIELD Special to The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Finally, the Cougar Cup has come back to Uxbridge.
An empty net goal by captain Aiden Reilly sealed a 4-2 victory in Game 5 over the North Kawartha Knights at the Bear Den on Monday, March 11th.
The win on home ice capped an emotional, five-game series that saw Uxbridge win four consecutive games to give the team its seventh division championship and first since 2009.
In Game 2, Reilly scored with just 2.7 seconds remaining regulation time as the Bruins rallied to tie the series 1-1. Justin Bennett opened the scoring for Uxbridge, with Simon Feig adding a pair in a 4-3 Uxbridge win in Apsley.
Reilly has been a tireless worker throughout his five-year career with the Bruins. And, as Assistant Coach Trevor Cox explained, he has been a remarkable leader as captain throughout the season.
“Aiden has been our hardest worker all year and a great leader. This is really an exclamation point for him and all of our overage players,” Bruins Assistant Coach Trevor Cox told The Standard. “Those four guys especially, they’ve been through a lot and everyone knows how hard they’ve worked to lead us all season.”
A second period goal by overage defenceman Tom Sheedy highlighted a 6-3 Bruins win at Game 3, in Uxbridge on Friday night.
The Bruins carried a 3-2 lead into the third period led by goals by Matt Hunter, Sheedy and Simon Feig. In the final frame, the Bruins offence roared to life, as goals by Esa Patton Michael Rennie and Justin Bennett (shorthanded) pushed Uxbridge to a 6-3 win.
One of three Uxbridge-raised players on the Bruins, Sheedy has been a fan favourite throughout his career with the team, dating back to 2013.
“Tom is the heart and soul of our defence,” explained Assistant Coach Mike Spataro. “It was a great moment, when he scored that goal and his reaction was to salute our fans.”
Following Game 5, Sheedy was elated to share the championship with his teammates, as well as the Uxbridge community.
“This is a childhood dream. I grew up going to Bruins games on Friday nights, so it’s unbelievable to win like this at home and give back to the amazing fans that we have in Uxbridge.”
Saturday night saw the Bruins rally from an early 2-0 deficit in Apsley to score a 5-3 victory, sealed with an empty net goal by Bennett.
Toby Cooper, Adam Turner and Jackson Savery scored in the second half of the first period to give Uxbridge a 3-2 advantage. Savery scored a powerplay goal to give the Bruins a two-goal advantage before the Knights knotted the game. Several sensational saves from Ryan McConkey kept the North Kawartha offence grounded before Bennett’s empty net score with three seconds remaining.
The Bruins will now move onto the provincial quarterfinals, matched up against the Tod Division-champion Napanee Raiders in the PJHL Eastern Conference Finals.
Uxbridge won a coin toss following Game 5 on Monday evening, and will likely begin their series against the Raiders, at the Bear Den on Monday, March 18th. Napa nee swept the Picton Pirates in four games to punch their ticket to their first quarterfinal appearance since 2010.
In their home-and-home encounter this season, the Raiders took both games against the Bruins by single-goal margins. Head Coach Andrew Langlands acknowledged that since those meeting happened early in the season, there is still an element of intrigue headed into the highly-anticipated provincial quarterfinal match-up.
“There are still a lot of unknowns between us and Napanee. I feel like both teams have tweaked their rosters for the better,” Langlands told The Standard. “The most important thing that our team has learned in these playoffs, is that we can overcome adversity. This team is so focused and so willing to sacrifice for one another and we’re going to be equally rested coming into this next series.”
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