The Port Perry MoJacks drew first blood in this season’s ‘Battle of North Durham’ as they skated to a 4-3 overtime victory over the rival Bruins in Uxbridge on Friday, Sept. 27 in a wildly entertaining affair that saw the MoJacks spoil the Bruins’ home opener.
The MoJacks would battle early penalty trouble, forcing goaltender Blake Shaw to make several sensational saves to keep Uxbridge off the scoreboard. As well, Bruins netminder Branden Francey was sharp in the early portion of the game, making a tremendous save on Kyle Schweda’s shorthanded breakaway.
The tide would turn in the middle portion of the opening period, with the Bruins pressed into several penalty killing situations, but neither side could solve the other’s goaltending, and after 20 minutes of play, the score sat deadlocked 0-0.
Rookie Alex Williamson would break the scoreless tie just over two minutes into the second period, when the 16-year-old Uxbridge native capitalized on a mistimed line change by the MoJacks, and netted the first goal of his junior hockey career on a breakaway.
The physicality would increase in the middle frame, as both sides looked to maintain a physical edge over the opposition.
A powerplay goal from Lucas Clark tied the game just over six minutes into the second period when the 17-year-old Port Perry product shovelled a point shot from Kyle Powell past Francey.
The MoJacks would dominate the play for large stretches of the second period, with Ryan Bernades and Konrad Piorkowski both ringing shots off the post.
However, the Bruins would take a late lead when Connor Evans blasted in a shot from the point on the powerplay to give Uxbridge a 2-1 lead with just 30 seconds left in the second period.
The lead would not last until intermission though, as Clark beat Francey low for his second goal of the evening with just two seconds left in the middle stanza, sending the teams to the dressing room all tied up at 2-2 after 40 minutes.
Special teams would continue to play a large role in the third period as Daryl Thomson restored Uxbridge’s lead with a shorthanded goal just over four minutes into the action.
However, the MoJacks would once again roar right just over four minutes later as Cole Murray fired the puck high into the net, with Kyle Schweda streaking down the centre of the ice, perfectly playing the role of decoy on the play.
The teams would trade tremendous scoring opportunities down the stretch, but overtime would be needed to settle on a winner.
After several strong scoring chances to start the extra frame, the MoJacks would walk away as the winners just over two minutes into overtime when Kyle Schweda - with a Bruins defender draped over him - avoided a stick check from Francey and lofted the puck over his blocker to propel the MoJacks to a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Following the game, MoJacks Head Coach Clair Cornish noted the added enthusiasm from both sides for the rivalry game, and praised the versatility of his lineup.
“That was a great game, both teams were really amped up, which was great to see,” Cornish told The Standard. “We had to have some guys in different roles tonight, but they really stepped up to the challenge. Right now, we’ve got the right mix of sandpaper and skill, and most important of all, guys that are really coachable.”
With two goals in the game, MoJacks forward Lucas Clark submitted another strong performance against the Bruins. Following the game, he explained the importance of the rivalry to both North Durham clubs.
“Being a Port Perry kid, and having family from Uxbridge, I definitely get more pumped when we play the Bruins just like a lot of the guys on both teams and I think it shows in the gameplay. Hopefully we’ll be able to carry some of this momentum over, and get people excited in both towns,” Clark said.
Meanwhile, Bruins Head Coach Geoff Hodgkinson noted that his team had played a strong game and is continuing to get players accustomed to the pace of COJHL hockey.
“(Port Perry) works really hard and you’ve got to match and counteract that, and I think we’ve been doing a good job of getting guys to understand their roles and different situations,” Hodgkinson said. “Any point you can get in this league is a bonus, and Francey played a exceptional game, we just have to be better in front of him. Luckily we get the chance to get right back to work tomorrow night.”
The Bruins would indeed rebound on Saturday, Sept. 28 as they travelled to Bowmanville to square off with the Clarington Eagles, winning by a final score of 5-1.
Dylan Locke led the way for the Bruins with two goals, while Carter Vahey, Shane Smith and Korey Brand all chipped in with singles in the winning effort. Brand would also add three assists on the evening, and Francey turned aside 32 of the 33 shots fired by the Eagles, starting his third straight game between the pipes for the Bruins.
The MoJacks meanwhile, would close out their weekend by hosting the COJHL’s newest entry - the North Kawartha Knights - for the first time at Scugog Arena on the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 29.
The MoJacks would provide a hostile welcome to the Knights, as they skated to a 4-1 victory to continue their unblemished start to the COJHL season.
Powell scored twice for Port Perry, with Piorkowski and Murray also lighting the lamp for the home side. Shaw was sharp in net once again as he stopped 21 of the Knights’ 22 shots for his third victory of the campaign.
- The MoJacks’ current four game winning streak is the longest for the team since January 2011.
- The Bruins will welcome the defending COJHL and provincial champion Lakefield Chiefs to Uxrena on Friday, Oct. 3, at 7:45 p.m., for the first meeting between the two clubs since the Chiefs defeated the Bruins in five games during last season’s COJHL Finals. On Saturday, Oct. 4, the Bruins will hit the road for their first game at Apsley’s North Kawartha Community Centre, as they tangle with the Knights at 7:20 p.m.
- The MoJacks also have a busy weekend ahead. On Saturday, Oct. 4, Port Perry will be looking to spoil Little Britain’s home opener as they hit the road to take on the Merchants at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Oct. 5, the MoJacks will be looking for their second win of the season over Lakefield, when the two sides hook up at Scugog Arena for a 2:25 p.m. tilt.