Special to the Standard
A new era of Uxbridge Bruins hockey got off to a winning start, on Friday night, with the Bruins skating to a 7-4 victory, in their home opener matched up, against the rival Port Perry MoJacks in a Battle of North Durham.
The win was the first, as a junior hockey head coach, for new Bruins bench boss Rob Acton, hired this summer, after two productive seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Junior ‘A’ Stouffville Spirit.
“All in all, it was an ideal start,” Acton told The Standard following the game, which was attended by nearly 200 raucous fans. “Personally, it was nice to start this new stage of my career with a win, but it was even greater for the team. There are always things to work on, and areas for improvement, but that’s a really good club we just beat and a great start to our year.”
A former Bruin himself, Acton added, he is fortunate to be behind the bench for a team with veteran players, in several key positions. This year Uxbridge returns both goaltenders from last season, Jake Joosten and Ryan McConkney, who picked up the win on Friday night. As well, the team boasts a deep and experienced corps of defencemen, led by returnees Kyle Spataro, Adam Bartholomew and Cristian Giorgio, as well as Tom Sheedy and Thomas Swift, who have returned to the fold after a season away from the Den.
“Defence is going to be a huge part of our game,” added Acton. “You try to build from the net out, and it’s a great problem for a coach to have two very capable guys sharing the crease. And, having those vets on the blue line takes some of the pressure off of our rookie forwards. Maybe they’re not gripping their sticks nearly as tightly, knowing that they’ve got those solid guys playing behind them. Having that depth makes it easier for everyone.”
Up front, while the Bruins do boast several new faces, it is a strong core of returning forwards that will be charged with carrying the offence. The top five scorers from last season’s team return this year, including: Damien Heinle, Derek Dolan, Aiden Reilly, Rob Freckelton and Simon Feig.
“We’re going to use speed to our advantage. That’s the way that I grew up playing, and it plays to one of our big strengths,” explained Acton. “We’re going to bring lots of pressure to create turnovers, and capitalize by playing an aggressive game.”
The enthusiasm at both ends of the ice was on display in Friday evening’s Battle of North Durham, with both sides showcasing special teams prowess early. Each side netted a pair of powerplay goals in the opening period, with Port Perry leading 3-2 after 20 minutes, with Uxbridge’s goals from Feig and Kieran Beaudoin.
Bruins rookie, Michael Rennie knotted things just 16 seconds into the second, and Feig would add his second of the night to give the Bruins a brief advantage, before the MoJacks equalized near the midway point of the stanza, to leave the game square at 4-4 through 40 minutes of action.
The Bruins would pull away in the third period though, with Matthew Hunter connecting just over six minutes into the frame, and Dolan providing a two-goal cushion with five minutes remaining. After several sensational saves by McConkney kept the MoJacks’ frantic offensive push at bay, late in the game, Feig sealed the win, firing his hat trick goal into an empty net, with less than a minute remaining.
- The Bruins were back in action, on Tuesday night in Lakefield (after The Standard’s press deadline).
- This Friday, Sept. 22nd, the Bruins will hit the road for the only time this season, when they trek to Keswick, to square off against the Georgina Ice at 7:30 p.m.
- The next home game, at the Den, comes on Friday, Sept. 29th, when the North Kawartha Knights visit Uxbridge, for a 7:45 p.m. tilt.