Special to The Standard
The Uxbridge Bruins rebounded from a disastrous start to their Provincial Junior Hockey League Orr Division quarterfinal series with the North Kawartha Knights, to take a two-games-to-one lead following back-to-back 4-3 victories, over the weekend.
The series started on Thursday night in Apsley, with the Bruins needing a goal from Damien Heinle in the final minute to break up a shutout bid for the Knights, as the third-year franchise earned its first-ever playoff win by a 5-1 margin.
Uxbridge would quickly regroup, however, as the series shifted back to the Bear Den, for a Friday night match-up on Feb. 10th.
The Knights would take a 1-0 lead on a powerplay goal, just over seven minutes into the action, and looked to be able to carry the advantage into the intermission, but the Bruins scored with just 36 seconds left in the frame, as the Knights surrendered a lown goal, credited to Adam Bartholomew, to knot the action 1-1.
Early in the second period, North Kawartha would regain the lead on a powerplay goal, but less than five minutes later, Aiden Reilly scored on assists from Nick Sribny and Jason Simmonds to even the score. Then, almost four minutes later, Cameron Moffitt slammed home a pass from Derek Dolan, to give Uxbridge its first lead of the series.
Just over three minutes into the third period, Moffitt took a pass from Sribny, charging into the offensive zone scoring his second of the evening, to give Uxbridge some breathing room down the stretch. The goal would prove pivotal, as the Knights drew to within one, and applied heavy pressure to the Bruins in the waning stages of the match, with Uxbridge killing penalties and the North Kawartha net empty in favour of an extra attacker. But the Knights were unable to solve the sensational saves from Bruins goalie Ryan McConkney, as they evened the series at one-game-apiece.
The series kept up its brisk pace, the following night back in Apsley, for the third game in three nights. The score stayed the same, as the Bruins escaped with a 4-3 win, leading in the series heading into Monday night’s Game 4 at the Bear Den, after The Standard’s press deadline.
On Saturday night, for the third straight game, the Knights took an early lead, but a power play goal by Coby Gardner late in the frame, assisted by Marshall Lockhart and Wes Cowie, would leave the game deadlocked through 20 minutes of action.
Just over a minute into the second, Simon Feig put the Bruins ahead, with Sribny chipping in the lone assist, and six minutes later Reilly provided a two-goal cushion assisted by Heinle. However, spurred on by a boisterous home crowd, the Knights rallied with a powerplay goal, to draw to within a goal heading into the third period.
Uxbridge would waste little time restoring their two-goal lead, with Reilly lighting the lamp, just over a minute into the final frame, assisted by Heinle and Bartholomew. And despite the Knights drawing back to within a goal, they were once again unable to solve McConkney and a stellar effort from the Bruins’ defensive corps, so Uxbridge prevailed by a final score of 4-3.
Game 5 of the series will be contested in Apsley, on Tuesday, Feb. 14th, wrapping up a whirlwind stretch of five games in six days, to open the quarterfinals. If needed, Game 6 is back at the Bear Den on Friday, Feb. 17th, with the puck dropping at 7:45 p.m. Game 7 is slated for Saturday night in Apsley, starting at 7:25 p.m.
In the other Orr Division quarterfinal series, the Clarington Eagles hold a commanding three-games-to-none lead on the Little Britain Merchants. The Eagles took Game 1 by a score of 7-1, then skated to a 9-3 win in Little Britain on Saturday night, before cashing in an 8-3 win over the Merchants, back in Bowmanville on Sunday evening. The Merchants will look to hold off elimination on home ice, on Wednesday evening, starting at 7:30 p.m.