The Port Perry MoJacks maintained a perfect record, through the first two weeks of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) season, with a pair of rivalry match-up victories over the weekend.
The MoJacks opened the weekend with a hard-fought 3-2 victory on the road in Uxbridge, in a ‘Battle of North Durham’ against the arch-rival Bruins, and followed it up with an identical result on Sunday afternoon in Port Perry, skating to a 3-2 win over the Clarington Eagles.
With the Bruins celebrating their 40th Anniversary this season, the MoJacks played the role of spoiler on opening night in Uxbridge on Friday, Sept. 23rd, which was marked by the familiar intensity that fans have come to expect from the two teams over the past four decades.
First period goals by Dan Harris and Brady Martin pushed the MoJacks to a 2-0 lead. However, the Bruins would regroup in the second period, with added urgency in the offensive zone, with goals from Cristian Giorgio and Simon Feig squaring things up on the scoreboard 2-2, through 40 minutes of action.
The teams would trade chances in the early stages of the third period, before Mitch Gustavsen took advantage of an awkward bounce to put the MoJacks back in the lead. The Bruins would battle back throughout the third, only to be continually denied by the MoJacks’ defence and goaltender Blake Shaw, including a frantic finish, with Jake Joosten summoned to the Bruins’ bench in favour of an extra attacker.
Following the game, Bruins head coach Tim Evans noted the back-and-forth nature of the game, and the numerous close calls for both teams, as well as the way his team has adapted to the style preferred by the new coach and his staff.
“I’m disappointed because it’s a loss to Port Perry,” Evans told The Standard. “But, I’m not disappointed because the game could’ve gone either way. I think we’re starting to play our system well and we’re trying to get everyone involved and give them a shot and boost our confidence with a really balanced club.”
The MoJacks were back in action at Scugog Arena, on Sunday, Sept. 25th, as they hoisted the 2016 Cougar Cup championship banner to the rafters, prior to their match-up with the Eagles, who were eliminated in five games by Port Perry in last year’s league championship series.
Gustavsen continued his strong weekend, as he scored the game’s opening goal just over four minutes into the action. Less than four minutes later, Cole Murray doubled the MoJacks’ advantage on a power play marker, assisted by Martin and Chris Polito.
The Eagles came out soaring in the second period, and notched two goals to tie the game, heading into the third period. Murray would net his second power play goal of the afternoon, near the midpoint of the period, on a great feed from Lucas Berkers, to put Port Perry ahead for good, as Shaw slammed the door on a Clarington comeback.
New MoJacks head coach Tom Boyle noted that the solid core of veterans returning from last season’s championship squad, the veteran Brady Martin joining the team from the perennial provincial powerhouse Alliston Hornets, as well as returning assistant coach Ken Cain, has been a big boost for his adjustment to the league.
“It’s been nice to have the vets and guys that have had that championship experience, to help set the tone for our club early in the season, and I lean on Ken quite a bit for his experience around this league” commented Boyle. “This year, MoJacks fans are going to see an upbeat offence with quick transitions, that’ll push the pace and play aggressive on the puck.”
Meanwhile, the Little Britain Merchants came up just short in their lone weekend match-up, dropping a 3-1 decision to the North Kawartha Knights, in Apsley on Saturday night. Hayden Long had the lone goal for the Merchants, and Billy Finney and Riley Young were credited with assists.
After a Tuesday night match-up in Lakefield against the Chiefs, the Merchants return to Little Britain on Saturday, Oct. 1st, for their home opener at 7:30 p.m., when they square off against the Georgina Ice.
The Bruins face a tough test this week, travelling to Bowmanville on Thursday night to face-off against the Eagles, before heading back to Uxbridge for a Friday night tilt against Lakefield. The action gets underway at 7:45 p.m.
A busy weekend for the MoJacks sees Port Perry make the trek to Apsley on Saturday night to joust with the Knights, heading back home on Sunday, Oct. 2nd, for a 2:25 a.m. matinee against Lakefield, and then making the trip to the shores of the Ottanabee River on Tuesday night for a return match-up against the Chiefs.